6 Ways to Protect Your Home (& Trick-or-Treaters) This Halloween

    From spooky decor to candy galore, the Halloween season is meant to be a fun and festive time for all ages. But according to Traveler’s insurance, along with tricks and treats, this autumn holiday sees 17% more crime-related home insurance claims filed than any other day of the year. With theft and vandalism prevalent, taking precautions is key. After all, forewarned is forearmed.

    Before the sun sets and trick-or-treaters and their families begin swarming your property, consider taking the following six precautions that will help keep your property and its potential visitors as safe as possible.

    1. Make sure your doors are locked.

    This may sound like basic advice, but it’s all the more important to ensure that your property is secure by locking the doors to your house and vehicles on Halloween. It’s a lot less suspicious for a neighbor to see someone walking on your property on Halloween, making it easy for a thief (or just a prankster) to give your doors a try. And, the FBI reports that approximately 30 percent of all burglaries are committed without force thanks to unlocked doors and windows, so don’t give would-be thieves an easy opportunity to rob you.

    2. Make sure your walkways are clear and well-lit

    The promise of candy can make kids careless when it comes to looking where they’re going. It’s important to remove anything that’s a trip hazard, including sticks and branches on the lawn that can snag costumes and cause kids to fall. Move those gorgeous potted mums, pumpkins, and cornstalks if they’re in the way. Though darkness lends an air of spooktacular eeriness to the night, it can contribute to accidents. Make sure your walkways are well-lit and change any bulbs that are out well in advance.

    3. Remove any fire hazards.

    Jack-O’-Lanterns are a Halloween staple and yet candles can become a fire hazard, especially if these gourds get knocked over, or flickering flames catch the hem of costume. If you feel this decor is a holiday must-have, look for electric or battery-operated decorations that won’t have your holiday spirit go up in smoke.

    4. Keep your pets secure.

    The constant ringing of the doorbell can agitate pets. As you open the door to dole out candy, it’s easy for dogs and cats to escape. In the least, this can startle kids, causing them to become upset or stumble backward. But, it could also lead to a child being scratched or bitten even if you do have the sweetest of pets. While your dog may think he’s protecting you, mistaking costumed tweens for would-be intruders can create a Halloween nightmare if someone gets bitten.

    5. Remove valuables from view.

    On Halloween night, plenty of strangers will be traveling through your neighborhood, with many coming right up to your door, giving them an opportunity to peek directly into your home. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to keep valuables out of view for the evening. Additionally, if you have a home security system, make sure the company’s logo is visible.

    6. Tighten your railings.

    With crowds clamoring for candy, your front steps can become congested. If anyone starts to feel unsteady, chances are they’ll reach for your railings, and when they do, you want them to be as stable as possible. Adults escorting little ghosts and goblins will be thankful for a sturdy surface amid the mayhem.

    This year, make sure your Halloween is scary for all the right reasons. Following these six suggestions can save you from becoming the star in a real life horror story.

    6 Ways To Winterproof Your Home This Fall

    If you want your home to make it through the winter months unscathed, you’ll need to take the proper measures to protect it. In other words, you need to winterproof your home.

    But if you wait until you’re hearing Christmas carols on the radio to take the necessary steps to protect your home, you’ll be too late. Here are 6 ways to winterproof your home this fall so your home is ready for the cold temperatures, snow, and whatever else the season wants to throw at it:

    1. Store patio furniture

    Winter isn’t the time for barbecues and dining alfresco, so it’s important that you protect your grill and patio furniture in the winter months — that way, they’ll be ready to roll when the weather starts to warm.

    Take your patio furniture and grill and put them into storage. This is especially important if you have aluminum patio furniture, which can rust once the snow hits. If you don’t have a place to store your grill and furniture (or if your furniture is made of a more durable material), you should at the very least cover it up to protect it from the elements.

    2. Empty and store hoses

    You’ll also want to store your garden hoses before the temperature drops. If you leave your hoses as is, the water in them can freeze, which can cause holes and leaks.

    Drain each of your garden hoses and store them inside until the spring.

    3. Protect your home from chilly winter air

    One of the trademarks of winter is cold air, and if that cold air finds a way into your house, you’re likely to find yourself shivering no matter how high you turn up the heat.

    It’s important to seal off your house to keep cold air from getting in. Look for any gaps in the walls or foundation and seal them with foam or caulk (you can also use caulk to seal any gaps around windows). If your home is notorious for being cold in the winter, you’ll also want to check the insulation. Your attic and basement should be insulated, and if the insulation is old or improperly installed, it can cause dropping temperatures in the colder months.

    Redoing or adding insulation isn’t cheap, so if you’re unsure of whether your insulation needs an upgrade, consult an insulation professional and get an estimate.

    4. Get the right thermostat

    One of the most important ways to protect your home in the winter is keeping it at the proper temperature. But “proper temperature” is relative; obviously, you’ll want your house warmer while you’re home, but it’s fine to turn down the heat while you’re out. But if you turn OFF the heat, you run the risk of the temperature dropping too low.

    A programmable thermostat will allow you to control the temperature in your home at all times. You can program your thermostat to automatically lower the temperature when you leave, and raise the temperature before you get home so you get to return to a nice, toasty environment. Many of the new thermostats even connect to your smartphone, allowing you to control the temperature in your home straight from your mobile device.

    5. Switch to winter fabrics

    When the winter chill kicks in, you’re going to want lots of warm, cozy fabrics to keep you warm. Replace your summer linens with more substantial fabrics, like velvet, fleece, or faux fur, to match the season. Put a throw or blanket in one of these fabrics in each room so you always have something on hand to wrap yourself up with when the temperature drops.

    6. Replace your furnace filter

    Old, dirty filters will make your furnace less efficient, driving up your energy bills and making your home more difficult to heat. Replace your furnace filter this fall to ensure that your furnace is in tip-top shape when winter hits.

    Colder temperatures are on their way, so it’s important to protect your home while you still have time. And with these winterproofing tips, getting your home ready should be a cinch.

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    10 Important Tips To Prepare Your Garden For Springtime

    If you’re like most people, as soon as the weather starts to warm up, and the mornings are bright and sunny, you start thinking about your garden, and what you can do to have the most successful growing season ever! Soon, you’ll see little chutes begin to pop up, and before you know it, you’ll be eating fresh salads directly from your own garden every day.

    Before you start your garden, though, here are a few tips to help you prepare, grow, and maintain your garden the best way possible starting right now!

    1. Order early

    A windy and rainy early spring day is the perfect time to get out the catalogues, and order your flower bulbs, and seeds. Every gardener has a few seed catalogues ready to offer inspiration and advice when picking just the right flowers and vegetables for your area. Keep in mind your sun/shade areas, your climate, and your soil when choosing bulbs and seeds.

    2. Clean up

    Before you even begin planting, you’ll need to clean up and clear out those old beds and borders. Turn over the soil to prepare for new planting, and add in organic matter such as compost, seasoned manure, or old grass clippings. This will create the healthiest soil for your garden to grow.

    3. plan

    It pays to rotate your planting areas when you are gardening vegetables. Grab a notebook and a pen, or use an online planner, to get an idea of where you’ll be planting your seeds to maximize the area you have to plant in. Take tips from seed catalogues regarding your growing period, and the zone you live in. Take into consideration how many hours of sunlight your garden will get on a daily basis. Good planning can make or break a successful vegetable garden.

    4. greenhouse

    If you’re a lucky gardener with a greenhouse, get out there and wash it down with a good disinfectant. Remember to wash down benches, trays, and pots, too, and keep it open over a couple of days to make sure it dries thoroughly.

    5. start early

    Begin starting seeds inside that need a longer growing season. You can start this in February or March, if you have a heat mat and lights. There are many flowers and vegetables that benefit from being started indoors, so do some research. Just about anything can be used as starter planters – even ice cube trays, pint milk cartons cut in half, yogurt cups, and/or toilet paper rolls cut in half and stood on end. The point is – start growing those seedlings!

    6. pesky pests

    Inspect your gardens carefully for any pests that have decided to over-winter there. The crowns of perennials are where many slugs, aphids, and snails take shelter over the winter. Clean out last year’s pots and if you see pests when you clean, consider purchasing parasitic nematodes as a protectant that won’t hurt your garden, only the pests.

    7. move shrubs

    Got a shrub or shrubs that you’d like to move? Now’s the time, while it’s still in its dormant stage. You’ll want to do this on a non-windy day so that the roots don’t dry out. Dig up as much of the root ball as possible, and this will mean digging a wide circle around the shrub. It’ll be able to establish itself much quicker if you do this. Don’t place them deeper than they were in their previous soil level, and when you’re done replanting them, give them a good drenching.

    8. fix

    As soon as the weather warms enough, get outside and repair garden boxes, raised beds, fences, trellises, and gates. These tasks aren’t what you’ll be wanting to do when planting time comes, so get them out of the way earlier rather than later, so you can enjoy your summer gardening. Enlist the help of high school students if you need an inexpensive way to get some of the bigger repairs completed without breaking your gardening bank.

    9. garden tools

    Clean them up with a disinfectant to stop the spread of disease from bacteria and fungus. Give them all a good sharpening, or take them to a local hardware store to do the job. You’ll enjoy your gardening more when you have clean, working tools to use.

    10. compost

    If you don’t already have a compost area – create one! You can either buy or make a bin, and you’ll have an awesome place for garden and organic food waste. Add in grass clippings, paper, and wood. As the compost breaks down, turn it each month, and soon it’ll be a boon to your garden.

    By prepping your garden sites now, and doing some advanced planning, you’ll be ready to go when it comes time to get those seeds (or seedlings) in the ground.