Are you thinking about purchasing home fitness equipment? Owning your own treadmill, exercise bike, or rowing machine can save you a lot of time and money compared to joining a fitness club. However, selecting the right equipment can be a challenge. Here are some tips:
- Try it first. Ask your home fitness equipment dealer to let you do a few minutes of exercise on the machine you’re considering. Most will agree. Be suspicious if they don’t.
- Ask around. Staff at local fitness clubs know the best equipment. Ask them for recommendations. Also ask friends and colleagues.
- Read on-line reviews. Type the name and model of the fitness machine you’re considering into Google along with the word “reviews”. Chances are you’ll find several websites that contain candid customer comments, complaints and testimonials.
- Make sure it fits. Home fitness equipment can take up a lot of space. Make sure the one you select fits in the room you have in mind. Pay particular attention to the ceiling height. You don’t want to hit your head while working out on your stair climber!
(BPT) – Winter’s coldest days make you appreciate spring and summer, as well as the warm afternoons spent outdoors enjoying these seasons. And when the time comes, there’s no better place to relax than in your own backyard. If your space isn’t all it could be, though, this is the perfect time for a little outdoor upgrade.
Below are five projects you can tackle on your own to reinvent your backyard and turn it into the space you always knew it could be.
- Landscape for the year. Landscaping provides a focal point in your yard, but don’t just landscape with the warmer months in mind – include plants for each season. Showcase blooming flowers and hostas in the warmer months, and pair them with evergreen conifers for a look that’s inviting all year long.
- One-of-a-kind planter boxes. Showcase your most beautiful blooms or delicious herbs in planter boxes made from Western Red Cedar. Western Red Cedar is ideal for planter boxes because it is naturally rot, decay and insect resistant. Plus, building the box is easy. You can learn how to build planter boxes of your own at Realcedar.com.
- Sitting beside the fire. A fire pit is a great way to extend your backyard use into the evening hours, and giving the pit a professional look is easier than you think. Start by measuring the pit area and then build your wall of pavers. Surround the pit itself with gravel, additional pavers or another non-flammable substance, then add some comfy chairs and prepare to enjoy.
- The all-in-one pergola. Whether you’re looking for a little shade, a centerpiece for the yard or the perfect spot to entertain, a pergola delivers. Building the pergola out of a lighter wood like Western Red Cedar will make the material easier to handle for any DIYer, and the appearance and smell of Western Red Cedar ensures your pergola will blend in naturally with the rest of your yard. You can find instructions for building your own pergola at Realcedar.com.
- Let there be light. Enjoy your backyard any time of day with just a little lighting. Solar-powered path lights are a low-maintenance way to showcase your new landscaping, and hanging track lighting can bring an evening glow to your pergola. Finally, don’t forget tiki torches. Adding a couple will give your backyard a rustic feel and keep the mosquitos away at the same time. What could be better than that?
Your backyard is what you make of it, so why not make it great? Any of these projects will noticeably enhance your backyard. For more amazing backyard projects, visit Realcedar.com.
(BPT) – When you dine, do you prefer clean and attractive tableware? Does ambiance enhance your enjoyment of your food? Birds feel the same way about their dining habits – the type and cleanliness of your bird feeders directly affects the number and species of birds that will visit your backyard this season.
To attract birds, you need to understand not only what they prefer to eat, but how they like to eat it. For example, while many species prefer seed, some birds like to eat their seed from elevated platforms, others prefer hanging feeders and still others are content to forage on the ground. All birds appreciate a clean feeder to prevent the spread of disease, and none of them like those pesky, seed-stealing squirrels any more than you do.
The bird experts at Cole’s Wild Bird Products offer some guidance for choosing the right feeder styles to attract the maximum number of feathered friends to your yard:
- Keep it clean – Everyone knows you should clean your feeders regularly to prevent disease, but many feeders are a pain to disassemble, clean and reassemble. Many people keep feeders less than pristine because of the hassle of cleaning. Look for feeders that make the process easy. All Cole’s tube feeders have a Quick Clean feature that allows you to remove the bottom of the feeder with the push of a button for easy cleaning access- no need to completely disassemble the feeders to clean them.
- Tube feeders are terrific – For versatility and wide appeal, it’s hard to beat a tube style feeder. These workhorses of the feeder world can handle seeds both large and small – from sunflowers to petite mixes. Tube feeders make great all-purpose feeders or excellent starter feeders for people just beginning backyard birding. Most songbirds will happily dine at a tube feeder.
- Some seeds are special – Niger is a favorite seed type for finches, siskins and several other appealing species, but not all tube feeders can handle this oily seed. If you’ll be serving niger, consider a specialty feeder like the Nifty Niger Feeder. The feeder dispenses the seed through special, tiny holes to limit the amount of waste.
- Cater to the clingy – Some birds, such as chickadees, titmice, woodpeckers and bluebirds, like to cling to the feeder. For these birds, a mesh feeder can be just what the diner ordered. Mesh feeders satisfy a bird’s desire to cling while also keeping larger birds from hogging the feeder. The Mighty Mesh Feeder is great for serving Nutberry Suet, Suet Kibbles, Suet Pearls, raw peanuts and any sunflower-based seed blend.
- The beauty of bowl feeders – Bowl feeders are another versatile style, and are great for serving not only seeds and seed blends, but also dried mealworms, fruit and suet in either kibble or pearl forms. The Bountiful Bowl Feeder comes with an adjustable dome cover that you can raise or lower to prevent larger birds and squirrels from getting to the food – and it also helps protect feed from rain.
- Hummingbird feeders are something to sing about – Hummingbirds are endlessly fascinating to watch, but you have to be quick to catch a look at them. Your best opportunity is when they’re eating, and a hummingbird feeder can help extend your viewing time. The Hummer High Rise feeder gives hummers a penthouse-view with elevated perches and keeps ants out of the nectar with a special built-in ant moat.
- Those darn squirrels – As much as you enjoy watching their antics, you probably don’t want squirrels on your bird feeder. These persistent bandits can wipe out a seed supply in minutes and damage even the best-made birdfeeders. One way to keep squirrels away from all your feeders is to install a Tough Bird Feeder Guard from Cole’s on your existing feeder poles. The simple device uses static pulse to train squirrels not to climb on feeder poles. Use your favorite feeders on your own shepherd staff or pipe-style poles and add the Tough Bird Feeder Guard to keep squirrels away. Only the tube portion of the guard is charged, so the pole and birdfeeder are safe to touch for humans and birds alike.
For more info on birdfeed blends and where to buy, visit www.coleswildbird.com.
(BPT) – The real estate market has improved across much of the country, but homeowners thinking about listing their homes this summer need to stay competitive to attract buyers. Buyers are looking for long-term homes, ones they want to stay in for years while raising their children, or settling down and retiring.
To prepare your home for listing – or simply to enjoy it a few years longer – check out these top five home improvement projects you can do yourself to make your home more attractive to buyers:
- Give the front door a new look – The front door sets the tone for your home’s curb appeal and security, and it signals how well you maintain everything else. Buyers will be walking into your home via the front door, so be sure to give them a good first impression. If your door is in good shape, you might just need to give it a refreshing new coat of paint or new hardware. But if it’s seen some wear and tear over the years, consider replacing it with a steel door – one that will show buyers your home is safe.
- Update the most-used entryway – While the front door needs curb appeal, the garage door is traditionally the most-used door in the home. Old wooden garage doors will start to sag and the paint will peel, giving your home a run-down look. Replacing this door with an insulated steel door will not only improve the exterior look of your home, but also keep the garage space warmer. Finishing off the garage can also be a big draw for buyers, but you probably won’t be able to recoup as much of the expense as you would by replacing only the garage door.
- Add additional living space – You might not think about adding a deck as the same thing as adding an extra room to the house, but if you’re selling your home during the warmer months, that’s how buyers will see it. They’ll be able to picture themselves enjoying breakfast and picnic dinners outside, or curling up on a lounge chair with a good book on a summer afternoon. To make your deck a good selling feature, consider using ProWood Dura Color, a color-treated wood that retains its color for years. This means your buyers can easily move into your house and can enjoy the space without the annual chore of staining. Realtor.com estimates that homeowners can recoup 87 percent of the investment of adding a deck when they sell.
- Create a bathroom retreat – As the smallest room in the house, the bathroom tends to cost the least to remodel. If you have a guest or master bath that can use a little help to transform into a relaxing oasis, take the opportunity to replace the flooring, add cushy rugs, paint the walls and replace the accessories with more modern styles. Faucets, showerheads, the mirror and even the toilet can all be upgraded with water-saving and stylish designs. Buyers will take note of a maintenance-free bath, making your home one they’ll remember as move-in ready.
- Turn the backyard into a private paradise – Buyers will be visualizing themselves in your backyard when touring your home. They’re looking to see how quiet and secure the space is. Consider adding a beautiful wooden fence to enhance the privacy. It will make the home attractive to families with children and pets, and for couples who aren’t interested in having a conversation with the neighbors every time they go outside. To make your fence an attractive selling feature of the home, consider using ProWood Dura Color fence pickets or pre-built panels. The cedar-tone or redwood-tone colorant driven deep into the wood fibers will stand up to the sun’s harsh rays and won’t gray out over time, unlike cedar fencing. You can match it to the deck coloring for a beautiful accent look that connects the colors in your backyard.
Whether you start your vegetables directly from seed or you buy a plant from a local garden or home center, you won’t give it much of a chance if your soil is simply not that good to begin with. What I mean by that is, and this stems from a conversation I had with a friend, if your soil lacks in nutrients or the pH level is too high or too low, seeds may never germinate and plants will never grow to their full potential. Then what happens is you blame the seeds, maybe they were too old, or the plants, ah they looked dead to begin with, as opposed to getting at the root of the problem…literally.
Like a skyscraper, your plants need a solid foundation. If a skyscraper has a poor foundation it could never get built because the base would never be strong enough to support it. Same goes for your plants. If you have a poor foundation, in this case your soil, they will never grow. You are in luck. There is one technique you can implement immediately that will have a long lasting effect on your foundation for many years to come…composting.
Composting is when you take organic material (i.e. leaves, twigs, grass clippings, last night’s left overs etc.) and let them decompose into its final usable product, humus. There are a number of ways you can compost, and which one you choose should not only fit the amount of space that you have but your lifestyle as well.
For example, trench composting, which I will touch on again in a moment, is one of the easiest and least labor intensive forms of composting is virtually ideal for anyone, especially those with very little time. You dig a big hole (hence, trench) and dump your organic material into the hole and then bury it. Nature does the work while you are hard at work uploading your vegetable gardening photos to our Facebook page.
Other forms of composting include vermicomposting, the use of red wiggler worms to do the work, and a compost pile. A simple Google or Bing search on any of these will give you step by step instructions on how to get started.
Always start small. I recommend you keep a big Tupperware bowl close by where you can put your coffee grinds, egg shells and food left overs in so you can bury them in your garden. When the Tupperware bowl gets full or near full, take it out back and dig a hole about 24 inches deep, put the contents of the bowl into the hole and then cover. Repeat these steps over choosing a new location each time and never use the same location earlier then 1 to 3 months. On a side note, do not bury steak or ham bones or meat for that matter. The bones will never break down and the meat could attract unwanted rodents.
After you get the hang of trench composting move on over and start a compost pile. This is where you will put all of your leaves, twigs and grass clippings. Over time the pile will breakdown into a nice, rich soil that your plants will love. Just remember to turn the pile over with your pitchfork once in a while. It will help speed things up.
So why do you compost in the first place? Beyond the “keeping it out of the landfill” aspect, composting adds nutrients into your soil, creates volume in your soil which allows for better soil retention and water drainage and helps maintain a constant yet beneficial soil pH level. All items you need in order to grow healthy and safe vegetables.
Your landscape is a large living investment and like most investments the more information about it, the more you get in return. Most of us regard mulch as having one function, to give our landscape a fresh new appeal. The truth is, properly laid mulch has many other functions that are vital to the health and life of our plants.
There are basically two types of mulch, organic — such as hardwood, bark chips, leaves and pine straw that easily decompose, and inorganic — such as stones, brick chips and dyed rubber that are permanent. Although inorganic mulches have their place in the landscape, this tip sheet will be limited to the use of organic mulches.
Why Should I Mulch?
- Mulching is one of the simplest and most beneficial practices you can use in your landscape and can give your planting beds a uniform, well-cared for look.
- Help maintain soil moisture. Evaporation is reduced, and the need for watering can be minimized.
- Help control weeds. A 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch will reduce the germination and growth of weeds.
- Serve as nature’s insulating blanket. Mulch keeps soils warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
- Improve soil aeration, structure (aggregation of soil particles), and drainage over time.
- Improve soil fertility.
- Can inhibit certain plant diseases.
Plants growing in a natural wooded environment have their roots anchored in a rich, well aerated soil full of essential minerals. Urban landscapes, however, are typically a much harsher environment with poor soils, little organic matter, and large fluctuations in temperature and moisture. Applying a 2 – to – 4 inch layer of organic mulch can mimic a more natural environment and improve plant health.
While mulching can be beneficial to your landscape, if improperly applied it can be equally harmful. Most organic mulches must be replenished but the rate of decomposition varies. Coarser mulches may remain intact for many years while finer mulches many need replenished every year or two.
- Define the edges of your landscape beds using a garden spade or power edger. Cutting a 3 to 4 inch deep trough along the edge of your landscape bed will keep mulch from bleeding into the turf.
- Check the depth of your existing mulch. If there is an existing layer of mulch, either remove and replace with fresh mulch or till the existing layer.
- Not too much! Deep mulch can lead to excess moisture in the root zone. Remember recommended mulching depth is 2 to 4 inches.
- Piling mulch against the trunk of plants can stress stem tissues and may lead to insect and disease problems.
- For trees, the mulch bed should be as large as the drip line of the tree. This will ensure the feeder roots, located near or even beyond the drip line of the tree, will be protected from drying out as quick and receive nutrients from the mulch.
- Thick blankets of fine mulch can become matted and may prevent the penetration of water and air. In addition, a thick layer of fine mulch can become like potting soil and may support weed growth.
- For landscape beds that do not drain well, apply a thinner layer of mulch.
Remember, your landscape is a large living investment and the more information you know about it, the more you can expect in return.
by: Steve Combs