Category Archives: Home and Garden

Get Ready Early

Every time Fall arrives we think that it will last for months, but in our area, when November 1st rolls around the weather can be good as well as ugly. We find ourselves rushing at the last days of pleasant weather doing things that could have been accomplished weeks before. When it comes to your home, it’s best to start from the top down and the inside out. First of all, if you live in a 2 story home, you should check to make sure all the windows close and seal properly including any possible loose exterior caulking and window glazing. You don’t want to be on a ladder when it’s freezing. If you have newer thermal windows, it’s best to remove the screens and store them for the winter. The extra sunlight coming into through windows helps to bring more light into the home during the short and sometimes dark days. Check around the exterior doors to make sure the seals are tight on both the inside and storm doors. Air leakage is the real culprit when it comes to high heating bills. Make sure you change the air filter on the furnace at least once per month. Dirty air filters cause furnaces to work harder. Clean windows not only help to bring more light into your home but also warming rays of the sun. A real thorough deep interior cleaning will help to keep your home less dusty while it’s closed up all winter. Take a moment to visit your attic and ensure the vents are not blocked. Even in the winter, homes have to have breathe. My favorite challenge to myself is to remember what I had to do at the last moment this past year because it was over-looked in preparing for winter. You wouldn’t believe what most people go crazy looking for when winter arrives. It’s an ice scraper for car windows! Frost is the first sign that winter is coming so don’t wait until the last—get ready early.

Reeling in the Blue Zone

While I was working for a little bit in the back of my office today, I had a great idea. Since I remember ways that used to be, I started allowing my mind to wander. Thinking about possibilities for change and the end effects of that change.

I purchased from an elderly client a newer reel type push mower that she used to mow her yard before she was unable to do it anymore. Keep in mind, she was in her late 80′s. I didn’t have any use for it at the time but thought it to be in too of good shape to pass up. I remember many summers mowing yards of the elderly for spending money with these types of mowers. Well, after I moved a year later over to my existing building, I found that my reel mower was indeed going to be put to use. I didn’t want anything combustable in my building so it made even more sense to use it to mow the green area behind my office. Most people don’t realize how well they mow. Some of the ones I used when young even had grass catchers. They are light and easy to maneuver and the cut is very clean and even. The sparrows really like picking thru the cuttings for seeds and bugs. They make me smile when I watch them.

Getting back to the reason for talking about the reel mowers. I remember many a time when during the summer, the husbands would be out with their reel mowers either in the evenings after work or on Saturdays. Back in those days you rarely seen young men and women overweight. When the motorized machines arrived in our world that do nearly everything for us have helped to cause a weight problem.

I do hope the people of Mason City and North Iowa get themselves standardized with a different way of caring for their homes and lawns. A little extra physical labor is good, and believe me, it helps our environment. Who wants to listen to a noisy mower and smell exhaust fumes?

I would love to see Mason City’s residents starting to “reel mow” in the Blue Zone.
I found a German company that sells quite nice ones here in the States. Click on the above YouTube and see for yourself.

Cross Worlds

During a short break today, I read a little of the internet news, and happened upon an article on the subject of the changing tastes of the millenial or Gen-Ys when it comes to what they prefer in housing. To the surprise of the researchers, this young generation seem to prefer living in the city rather than the suburbs and the size preferences tend to be smaller. Another factor seems to be that they have witnessed the housing bubble of the 2007 – 2008 and are more aware of the market swings.

What delights me the most about these new tastes is that they seem to be more concerned about their homes proximity to shopping and work. They don’t want to needlessly waste money on gas and even look for availability to public transportation.

I visited with a developer today about this and he mentioned that in metro areas, downtown upper scale housing that is close to the historic districts sell and rent for far more due to the proximity to shopping, work, and entertainment. One of my clients some years ago moved to a warehouse that was converted to upscale condominiums in downtown Seattle and was shocked at what they paid for the 1,200 square foot unit. That condo has likely doubled in price since they purchased it.

Getting back to the article I read today. It also mentioned that the older generation still tends to gravitate toward larger yards and distance in commute to the larger city. The children prefer to leave their parents and grandparents in the hinterland with their big houses on large lots.
So it appears we have opposing generational likes in housing. I guess we can still continue to grow our communities in spite of our living in cross worlds.

Weeds Love Hot Days

These exceedingly warm and humid days have brought on the rapid growth of weeds. Just this past week I have noticed how terrible the sidewalks and landscaped areas of the downtown have been appearing.

There are volunteer trees growing in some of the commercial landscapes as well. I hope everyone will start to take active steps to keep these unsightly weeds and seedling trees under control. Just a few minutes a day keeps the weeds at bay.

I have been thinking lately about how it would be a great incentive for homeowners and tenants to keep the exteriors of their residences free of debris and weeds. How about starting a yearly contest that would award certain blocks of each quadrant of the city a trophy for the best appearing block of homes and or apartments. Also there would be a separate award for the best block in the commercial and downtown districts. Then, there could be an award for the most improved block of the year. And lastly, there would be an award for the overall best block in the city for the year. Newspaper stories would be created as well as television coverage. This would also help the owners to get to know each other better as well as learn to work together towards a common goal.

I haven’t heard of anything like this in another community but I think it would be worth a try.   This type of approach towards weed control would prevent the weeds from living long enough to enjoy growing and subsequently spreading thousands of seeds during these hot and sultry days.

Tips for going Green

Sharing knowledge is rewarding. There are so many people who know much but don’t want to share because they believe that with that knowledge gives them extra power. Such a selfish idea when they really must understand that we all must attempt to work together in the job of living. One of my customers asked be about a week ago if I knew a plumber to call to get his shower heads working.

I asked him what was wrong. He said that the water doesn’t spray like it should. I told him he didn’t need a plumber but rather unscrew the shower head and soak it in some white vinegar because it was likely limed up. The acid in the vinegar will dissolve the lime. I also told him that it can be used around faucets and other areas of the kitchen and bath that have lime build-up. I received an e-mail from him today thanking me for the great tip because now after acting on my suggestions, his shower heads are working just fine now and also said he hated using so many different cleaners because of all the ingredients in them. I remember so well helping my parents wash windows with just vinegar and water. They were just as clean as a window washed with a name brand window cleaner. I laugh to myself when I show someone a home that has a linoleum floor in the kitchen or bathroom that has yellowed. I tell them that if they would scrub it very well with ammonia and water and give it a good rinse, it will likely look just like new. One of the big things that most people don’t know about is something a custom builder told me many years ago about keeping ceramic tile clean. He told me that using commercial tile grout cleaners is a waste of money when a person should just use pure oil soap maybe once or twice a year. You just wipe it all over the tile and leave it stand over night then wash it off. When I did it for the first time I was shocked. The tile and grout looked just like new. He said the oil in the soap helps to protect the grout from getting water logged. These are just a few tips that I hope I can share over the course of posting my articles. Just because it isn’t advertised on the television doesn’t mean that it’s bad—it just doesn’t make big businesses money.

Protecting our ourselves and our environment is what Going Green is all about.

Evening Breezes

What a wonderful day just happened today. The sun shined nearly all day today with only a few drops of rain. I mentioned to one of the attorneys today that someone must have done something really bad here in North Iowa because we are getting continually pounded with rain. I can’t remember ever being so anxious about rain as I have been this year. It just doesn’t “feel” right. Since the water table is at the level it was during the flood of 2008, I just hope and pray that we don’t get a storm that will create another flood like we not so long ago endured. I remember that Sunday morning like it was yesterday and don’t want a repeat version. This evening is a welcome relief with no rain, lower humidity and rays of sun reaching through the trees. I have shared this idea with people in the past and I truly believe it works. If each of us have our own space in the home as well as our own private garden, then we have created a four season sanctuary. I think sometimes the people in this world do the things they do because they don’t have their own sanctuary where they can let their hair down, rest and reflect. Living in the new generation of “look at me” has a price. Everyone should wake up every morning, stand in front of their bathroom mirror and attempt to ask themselves if they are truly happy. Who cares what anyone else thinks. I care about what we think of ourselves without the external pressures of friends and family. I asked a young buyer this afternoon a similar question.

I said to him, “I am sure there is something that you know that you are really good at but everyone else thinks not. And if they would argue with you for hours and hours and you still, after enduring their harassment, consider yourself better than the average bear in that ability, then you must do it.” We all really do know very deep down what ability we have of which the world waits. In closing, I am going outside and absorb the evening breezes. In this time, they are priceless.

Team Work

Later this afternoon I bumped into a past client of mine and we played catch up on what’s been happening with each other’s lives. She mentioned that she reads some of these articles and said she wished she could have responded on the one that I talked about children becoming more specialized in their fields and not knowing how to do the basic home repairs. She said it was her parents fault for not teaching her some of the basic day to day problems that her parents knew how to take care of but didn’t pass their knowledge on to their children. I’m glad she was very frank about that and as I was thinking about it, she’s right. Most parents now are so busy with their work as well as their children’s school activities as well as continually, in a subtle way, enabling them and not even considering the future consequences their children will have to endure because of their not acquiring a broad knowledge of how things work in our world. I had a younger client call me not long ago and say, “I have water coming in my kitchen cabinets when it rains.” I instantly thought about his one story home and where the kitchen is located. After about 10 seconds, I said to him, “There must be a kitchen vent that is going up thru the roof that is not properly sealed.” I told him he HAD TO get someone out to his house and get that corrected. Some weeks later I ran into him and he told me that I was right about the water problem. My advice for parents is to take away the toys and the game boards and set them free to explore and learn. We do live in a society that speaks continually about individuality and finding one’s self. I would rather see families becoming teams, communities becoming teams, and indeed our country working as a team. When it comes to getting things done, many hands and many minds make very little work.