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6 fire safety tips for homeowners living near wooded areas



If you live near a forest or wooded area, you should take extra precautions to protect your home and family from fires. In addition to having functioning smoke detectors and an evacuation plan, here’s what you should do.

1. Always confirm whether there’s a fire ban in your region before lighting a bonfire.

2. Privilege fire-resistant construction materials such as metal, brick and stucco for building structures on your property.

3. Remove all flammable vegetation and materials (including firewood) that are within a 30-foot radius of your home. This will reduce the risk of a fire spreading from the forest to your home and vice versa. Additionally, fences and propane tanks should be kept away from the home and other buildings on the property.

4. As much as possible, privilege tree species that have a low degree of flammability such as birch, maple, poplar and aspen. Additionally, make sure their crowns don’t touch, as this will reduce the risk of flames jumping from one tree to the next.

5. Try to collect as much rainwater as possible. You can install collection drums under your gutters and add small bodies of water to your landscaping.

6. Keep tools that could help fight a fire on hand such as long water hoses. It’s also a good idea to have a ladder that’s long enough to access your roof.

If you follow these safety tips, you may be able to prevent a fire from striking. At the very least, you’ll be better prepared in case one does occur.

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4 tips for a successful Fourth of July barbecue



The Fourth of July is an ideal occasion to host a backyard barbecue. Here are four tips to ensure the day is a success.

1. Start planning early
Hosting a barbecue isn’t complicated, but waiting until the last minute to get organized can be stressful. A to-do list will ensure you don’t forget to pick up ice for the drink cooler or top up on fuel for the grill. If guests are bringing side dishes, preemptive planning can help you avoid ending up with four macaroni salads.

2. Get creative with colors

A simple way to incorporate patriotism into your decor is to use red and blue plates on a white tablecloth. Create simple centerpieces with mason jars, battery-powered headlights, and miniature American flags. For the rest of your yard, think flowers, balloons, and streamers. If you want to entertain the kids, buy some red, white and blue water balloons.

3. Keep the menu simple
Set out chips and dip for guests to snack on before you fire up the barbecue. Complement the traditional meat options with grilled asparagus, corn on the cob, or vegetable skewers. Remember, simple doesn’t have to mean boring. You can make the meal interactive with a build-your-own burger, nacho, or sundae bar.

4. Remember to relax
Independence Day is about spending time with loved ones and creating memories. Don’t hesitate to delegate tasks by assigning someone to the grill or asking guests to contribute a salad or dessert. Once everyone has a plate full of food, be sure to raise a glass to family and country.

Ideally, your barbecue should start in the early afternoon so you and your guests can make the most of a sunny day and still have time to go watch a fireworks display in the evening.

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3 considerations when choosing a floating floor



Floating floors have become increasingly popular in recent years thanks to their durability and improved quality. Most of all, people appreciate how easy they are to install. Since the planks attach to each other instead of the subfloor, they’re also easy to replace. Here are three things to consider when choosing a floating floor.

1. The material
The most popular type of floating floor is laminate, which is an affordable option that can withstand a lot of abuse. How¬ever, you can also find planks made of vinyl, engineered wood, and other materials like cork.

The material you choose will depend on your budget, where you’re planning to install it, and the amount of traffic you expect in the area.

2. The quality
Well-made floating floors lock together easily and seamlessly, while some lower-end materials may not connect properly.

If you opt for laminate that mimics the look of wood, make sure there’s enough variety in the pattern for it to appear natural.

3. The thickness
Thicker floating floorboards aren’t necessarily a higher quality product. However, they’re easier to install, more resistant to damage, and the best choice if your subfloor isn’t perfectly flat.

Before you install your floating floor, you’ll need to lay down a sheet of foam underlay. A must for any floating floor, this layer acts as a moisture barrier, helps correct minor imperfections in the subfloor, and adds a bit of cushioning under the planks. Be sure to remove any baseboards or trim from the wall prior to installation, and pull up the old flooring if necessary.

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How to maintain an organic lawn



If you want to grow an organic lawn, the first step is to stop treating it with chemicals. Instead, use natural products like chicken manure and corn gluten to nourish your grass and make it more resistant to pests. Furthermore, organic lawns require a bit of upkeep. Here’s what’s involved.

In the spring
If you live in a region that has cold winters, you should prepare your lawn for the growing season as soon as the ground thaws.

Start by removing any dead grass and aerating the lawn with a mechanical aerator. Once this is done, cover the surface with a mixture of black soil and compost.

Additionally, remember to test the soil’s acidity level and add lime or wood ash if necessary.

In the summer
To keep your lawn healthy, maintain a grass height of about three inches. You can leave the clippings on the lawn to act as a natural fertilizer.

You should also periodically check the soil’s acidity and treat any imbalances.

Finally, to make your lawn healthier and more resistant to disease and infestation, be sure to plant several kinds of grass and plants.

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How to make your home more energy efficient



The amount of energy your household consumes can have a significant impact on your heating and cooling costs. Here are a few ways you can make your home more energy-efficient.

Replace doors and windows
If they aren’t well insulated, doors and windows can be a significant source of energy loss in your home. To maximize thermal insulation, upgrade to Energy Star certified models. Keep in mind that even the most energy-efficient options must be properly installed to provide optimal results.

Improve insulation

A large part of your energy consumption likely goes toward heating and cooling your home. Fortunately, effective insulation makes it easier for your HVAC unit to regulate your indoor temperature. In many cases, you can simply add new insulation over the old stuff. To minimize your carbon footprint, even more, choose an eco-friendly product certified by Greenguard or EcoLogo.

Seal air leaks
Reducing the amount of air that leaks in and out of your home will make it more energy-efficient. Use caulk to seal windows, doors, vents, and places where plumbing or wiring comes through a wall. Don’t forget to have the foundation, roof, and exterior corners inspected for cracks and other types of damage.

Keep in mind that some projects are best left to the professionals. This will ensure your updates are done properly and safely. If you want to start with a smaller job, replace your halogen lightbulbs with LED versions, and consider installing a smart thermostat.

Incentive programs
Don’t forget to take advantage of government incentive programs, such as tax credits and rebates, to help offset the cost of making energy-efficient improvements and using renewable energy technologies in your home.

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How to grow food in a desert climate



Under the right conditions, fruits and vegetables can thrive in the desert. Here are a few things to consider if you want your vegetable garden to flourish in a hot, arid environment.

Test the soil for nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Although it depends on what you’re growing, vegetables generally require a significant amount of each nutrient. You may also need to adjust the pH level since arid soil tends to be very alkaline.


Most vegetables need six to eight hours of sunlight a day to thrive. However, many desert climates get more, especially during the summer. To avoid scorching the leaves of your plants, make sure to provide your garden with plenty of shade.

In a desert climate, plants need to be watered at least twice a day to prevent them from drying out. Alternatively, you can set up an inexpensive drip irrigation system.

If you’re interested in cultivating a garden that requires minimal irrigation, you can still grow food. The prickly pear cactus, for example, is entirely edible. Once the spines are removed, you can cut the pads into strips and add them to a salad or cook them with other vegetables. The plant also produces a red-fleshed fruit that’s considered a delicacy.

What to grow
Here are a few food-producing plants that can thrive in the desert:

• Squash
• String beans
• Hot peppers
• Pomegranates
• Okra
• Melons
• Tomatoes
• Herbs

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Is your dog depressed?



Did you know that dogs can be afflicted by bouts of depression? Indeed, many animals can suffer from mental health disorders similar to the ones humans experience. If you’re worried about your pooch, here’s what you should know about canine depression.

Canine depression isn’t always easy to recognize, and in many instances, a medical condition can explain a dog’s behavioral changes. However, the signs typically associated with canine depression include:

• Loss of interest in normal activities

• Sleeping more
• Loss of appetite
• Excessive paw licking
• Hiding

There are a variety of things that can lead to depression in dogs, including:

• An upheaval. A schedule change, move or the arrival of a new family member can affect your dog more than you might expect.

• Bereavement. Dogs can feel the loss of a loved one — human or canine — as much as we do. If a close member of your family has just moved away or died, your pooch may be grieving.

• Illness. In some cases, the symptoms of a medical condition will either mimic or cause canine depression. A veterinary exam can determine whether this is a factor in your dog’s behavior.

If you think your dog is suffering from depression, the best thing you can do is maintain a regular schedule. Be consistent with feeding times and go for lots of long walks to ensure your pup gets sufficient exercise. Most importantly, praise your dog when he or she seems to be happy, amused, or playful.

If symptoms don’t go away within a few months, talk to your veterinarian. They may prescribe an antidepressant or suggest another treatment that can help.

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