Fall Yard Projects

It’s almost fall! While we’re enjoying those great fall months before winter sets in, there are a few steps for yard care that can make all the difference in the spring. It’s also a good time to plan for winter projects that may slip by while were holed-up during those colder months. But it’s not bad out today. So grab a pen and something sturdy on which to write. The Steps for Today will be out in the yard.

Now is the time to take a good look at the grass. Are there patchy spots. I know my yard has some. Giving them some seed and fertilizer to work over the winter will help produce a beautiful lawn in the spring.

  • Over seeding is best done early in the fall, when the ground is still warm. If over seeding, it’s best to get the seeds into the soil if possible. Raking with a hard tooth rake before and after application will help them make their way to the soil.
  • If the ground is really bare, remove any debris and apply a quarter-inch of soil over the seeds.
  • Dormant seeding can be done late in fall. But as the name indicates, the seeds will lay dormant until spring.
  • Both early and late fall are a great time to apply fertilizer. The heavy fall dew will help break down the fertilizer and feed the seeds.
  • If you have seeded, it’s not a good time to apply weed control. The new seedling will most likely need till spring to get a good start.
  • If you have a mulching lawn mower, mulching your grass and some leaves will apply a nutrient-rich protective blanking over the lawn during the winter.
  • If you’ve got one, it’s time to schedule having your sprinkler system flushed for the winter.
  • Late fall is also a good time to service your mower with a cleaning, sharpening and oil change.

All those wonderful leaves. Sure we don’t like raking leaves, but having a few trees in the yard sure is nice. Although winter is the best time to trim trees, it’s often a busy time for tree trimmers. Best to get on the schedule now.

  • Examine trees for dead or damaged branches.
  • Get on a tree trimmer schedule early. Get several estimates and opinions. Their prices can vary greatly. Be sure to have them look at the smaller trees for signs of stress as well. And be sure to ask for a copy of their insurance. Most will send it with the estimate. And always check the online reviews.
  • Check for limbs getting too close to the house. They can tear up roofs, siding, or gutters quickly in a wind storm.
  • As mentioned in my last post. Inspect gutters to ensure they’re working properly for the winter months.

Landscaping a water issues can become a real problem during the frigid winter months, when they become ice issues. Landscapers often offer discounts at this time of year for winter work, so now is the time to consider getting on their schedule.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few things. Any suggestions?

As always, thanks for reading and please share with others.

And remember to take the next step…


Fall Projects Around the Home

This year has been like no other. The pandemic has had many of us staying close to home this spring and summer. Some have used this time to focus on projects they’ve been wanting to do for a while. Others have started a new hobby, like gardening. In either case, we’ve had a little more time to plan our lives and activities. Now that Fall is on our doorstep, we should give some thought to those activities which are best done at this time of year.

As temperatures turn cooler, it is the perfect opportunity to review our homes ability to shelter us from the upcoming winter months. A quick walk around the house will help uncover areas in need of a little TLC. So grab pen and paper. And let’s take a few Steps For Today.


  • Furnace Checkup – Your furnace is your main line of defense against winter cold. Changing its filter regularly help it from working harder than it should to warm your home. It’s also a good idea to have it inspected yearly. The combustion chamber of an oil or gas furnace expands and contracts every time it ignites. Meaning that after time, it can crack from fatigue. A damaged gas or oil furnace can emit carbon monoxide (CO); an odorless deadly gas.
  • Smoke and CO detectors – it’s a great idea to change smoke and CO detector batteries in the fall, when daylight savings time changes. And if you don’t have CO detectors near your oil or gas furnace, you should definitely add them to your list of things to do.
  • Windows and Doors – Air loss, through gaps in the seals around windows and doors, is a major factor in keeping your heating bills as low as possible. While walking through your home, take note of any windows or doors that just are sealing well. Also note any cracked or lose panes. Whether fixing the old, or replacing it with new, it’s much better to address these when the weather is still warm enough to remove them. If ordering new windows, be aware that there can be a significant lead-time on their delivery and/or install. It’s best to get the process started early as possible.
  • Insulation – While you’re at it. You may as well take a peek in the attic to see if there’s insulation up there. Chances are good that there is. But you never know.
  • Home Exterior – Taking a look outside, be sure to give your homes exterior a thorough inspection. Look for loose or damaged siding, trim, soffit, and facia. It’s certainly easier to address these concerns before real cold sets in. Working on vinyl siding in the cold, when it can crack, is less than ideal.
  • House washing – Summer months can lead to dirt and mold (usually on the north side) on your home’s exterior. A hose and long brush can remove most of this. If using a power washer, be sure to check it’s spray power from a distance before moving to close and possibly blowing parts off your home.
  • Outdoor spigots – Take a look at your outdoor hose spigots. Leaking spigots can freeze and rupture pipes inside the home. Sometimes spigots just need a new set of washers. Sometimes they need a replacement. A good local hardware store may be able to tell you if they sell a washer replacement just by looking at a close-up picture of the spigot handle. If you need a replacement, search the internet for ‘replacing a hose bibb’ video. It may be easier than you think. And, of course, your local plumber can make short work of such things.
  • Deck care – Now that Labor Day has passed, it’s a good time to consider sealing your deck or patio. Having the supplies on hand for when the weather is just right, will help make the process easier.
  • Gutters – Look for signs that gutters are overflowing. This is usually caused by foul-smelling gunk in the gutter or downspout. Stopped up gutters usually lead to water or ice problems in the winter or spring. Cleaning them early and late in the fall will help avoid associated problems.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few things that should on this list. I’ll probably cover yard care in my next post. What are some of the important (or not-so-important) tasks I might add?


As always, thanks for reading.

And remember to take the next step…


Winter Prep 101

It’s that time of year again. The forecast is for freezing nights. And here in the Midwest, we all know it’s just a matter of time until we can expect some dangerously cold and slick weather.  So today we’ll focus on taking some proactive steps to reduce the hazards for ourselves and our loved ones. Let’s take a quick look around our house for what we can do.

In the home:

  • Replace smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries. Install carbon monoxide detectors in areas with heaters or appliance that burn fuel.
  • Schedule a furnace checkup, especially if one hasn’t been done in a while
  • Make sure there is a fully charged fire extinguisher readily available.
  • Purchase small electric space heaters to help heat areas with plumbing just in case there is a furnace problem. If you must use an extension cord with a space heater, make sure to get a 12/3 (12 gauge/3 prongs) grounded cord. Never use a light duty cord with a heating device.
  • Solar and/or hand-crank recharging devices with a USB output port
  • Have a flashlight in a known location with fresh batteries. There are now flashlights that can recharge through a USB port.
  • Cell phone chargers and backup power supplies
  • Battery operated or hand-crank radio with replacement batteries
  • Ensure that important documents, information, and heirlooms are stored in a protected location.

Outside the home:

  • Check to make sure outside water faucets and completely off and not dripping. Any leak at all will allow the water to freeze all the way up into the pipe and cause it to burst.
  • Snow shovel and/or blower
  • Salt or ice melt already in containers that are manageable by everyone who might need to use it
  • Backup power supply for medical equipment with fuel for at least 7 days
    • Periodically start and run fuel powered generators
    • Refresh fuel supplies as needed and add fuel stabilizer to gasoline supplies.

In the car:

  • Ice scraper
  • Car charges for phones
  • Flashlight with batteries or charger
  • A small shovel for removing snow or mud from in front of the tires
  • Salt for melting ice and traction
  • Tire chains if you live in an area with frequent, deep snows
  • Warm blankets in case the car is stranded and fuel is in short supply
  • Boots, hats, and gloves in case the car is stranded and you must walk to safety
  • Fuel up automobiles when dangerous weather is forecasted. Especially if they may be needed for evacuation
  • A plastic container big enough to hold all of this

Helping others:

  • Create a plan with a team of family, friends, or neighbors to check on each other during bad weather.
    • Write down a list of conditions for which a check-in should be expected
  • Help your neighbors with snow removal and taking out the trash and morning paper.
  • Leave behind some salt or ice melt already in containers that are manageable by everyone who might need to use it

An Emergency Kit

  • You may want to create and emergency kit containing a minimum of 7 days of resources, depending on the threats in your area. In addition to the above items, it should contain:
    • A team of people who will check-in with each other when the weather turns hazardous
    • Food and water, emergency medical and sanitation supplies, and prescription medications
    • Propane or solar powered refrigerator for medications which must be kept cool
    • Hand operated can opener
    • Matches and/or lighters
    • Rechargeable flashlights and/or battery operated lighting with replacement batteries
    • Alternative heat source such as a kerosene heater or fireplace-ONLY if you know its proper use indoors to avoid the dangers of poisonous gases
    • Make a routine to check your kit and team to make sure their still up to the task. This is as easy as writing a reminder on your calendar to review your plan.
      • Review kit contents twice a year and replace kit batteries
      • Monthly check that battery-powered backup power supplies still hold their charge

Although everyone is exposed to these dangers, we all know someone who is at a greater risk when bad weather comes their way. Please share this message with them. Or better yet, assist them in preparation of their emergency plan and in finding someone who can check on them. Having the reassurance that someone will think of them when bad weather occurs will undoubtedly provide some peace of mind.  And too….some of this would make excellent Christmas presents.

I’m always looking for suggestions and feedback. Please take a moment to suggest any items that you believe should be on this list. And please share this list with anyone highly vulnerable to the effects of bad weather.

As always, thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…

More information regarding disaster preparedness can be found at https://www.ready.gov and http://www.redcross.org/get-help/prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/winter-storm.