BBQ Safety

 

summer-bbq-hacks-to-keep-you-leanBBQ’s are such a huge part of summer culture in Manitoba (and everywhere else really) but one thing that often is put on the back burner (haha) is BBQ Safety.

You may say “I’m careful when I BBQ, that’s good enough” and while that’s great, there is still lots to consider about your BBQ Safety even when you are not using it.

Read below for some BBQ Safety and general knowledge taken right from the Government of Canada’s website!


 

Before use

If your barbecue has been sitting for a long period of time (over winter), it will need to be checked before use. Look for:

  • blocked burners or metal tubes near the burners
  • damaged or leaking fittings and hoses:
    • use a soapy water solution and check for bubbles
    • if you see bubbles, have the barbecue serviced by an authorized professional and then re-check for leaks
    • replace cracked or damaged hoses even if they are not leaking
  • a damaged seal (check the seal when you get your barbecue tank refilled and check for leaks after re-installing)

Also make sure the barbecue and burners are clean and the briquettes do not have a lot of grease buildup.

When setting up your barbecue, make sure it is:

  • outside and in a well-ventilated area
  • far away from combustible materials and windows and doors
  • on an even surface to reduce the risk of it tipping over

During use

When you use your barbecue, keep the lid open when lighting it. Follow these 3 steps:

  1. open the shut-off valve on your tank to turn on the gas
  2. turn the burner controls on the barbecue to the appropriate position
  3. ignite the barbecue using the igniter switch or other recommended means, making sure not to lean over the barbecue

If the barbecue does not light right away:

  • turn off the gas
  • wait for the gas to go away before re-lighting

Other tips:

  • never leave a lit grill unattended
  • use long-handled cooking utensils and heat-resistant mitts to reduce the risk of burns
  • inspect your barbecue brush and the barbecue grill before each use:
    • The metal bristles on the brush can become loose over time and stick to the grill.
    • The bristles can stick to food and could be accidentally swallowed, possibly causing serious throat or digestive injuries.
    • Replace your brush regularly to help avoid problems associated with wear.
    • Immediately throw your brush away if the bristles come loose or stick to the grill.
    • Alternatives that do not have metal bristles are also available for you to purchase.

After use

After barbecuing:

  • shut off the gas valve.
  • let the gas remaining in the connecting hose burn off.
  • close the burner controls.

If you have a charcoal barbecue, make sure the charcoal has cooled down completely before you get rid of it. This could take several hours.

Common barbecue fuels

There are some things you should know about the fuel you use for your barbecue:

  • propane and natural gas are odourless. For safety reasons, a “rotten eggs” smell is added before the gas is sold.
  • barbecues may produce carbon monoxide when used. Carbon monoxide is a harmful gas that has no colour, smell or taste. It can cause serious health problems or death if inhaled. That is why it is important to use your barbecue outdoors, in a well-ventilated area.
  • propane gas is heavier than air. Propane that leaks from a barbecue may remain in the lower cabinet or other low lying areas. If the rotten egg smell is gone, the gas has likely gone away.

 

Summer Maintenance Checklist

It doesn’t matter if you are a new homeowner or have been living in the same house for summer-home-maintenance-to-do-list-7-clean-refrigerator-coils40 years. Summer house maintenance sneaks up on us, then tries to take over our summer… but if you keep track of your tasks with a list, you may be surprised how quickly you can check some of these boxes and STILL enjoy a great summer!

Today’s Homeowner actually put together a pretty comprehensive list that includes both cleaning AND repairs for the inside AND outside of your home! Take a look at the checklist below or click HERE to go to their full blog for instructions and even more tips on how to accomplish these tasks!


Indoor Summer House Cleaning

  • Refrigerator Coils: The condenser coils on a refrigerator remove heat from inside the unit; and if they get dusty and dirty, it can cost up to $100 more a year to run your fridge! The coil is located either on the bottom behind the kickplate, or on the back of the refrigerator. To clean refrigerator coils, turn off the power to the fridge, then vacuum the coils using a homemade wand from a cardboard gift wrap tube or a vacuum cleaner brush attachment.
  • Refrigerator Door Gasket: The flexible magnetic rubber gaskets on your refrigerator doors can wear out and reduce the efficiency of your fridge. Start by inspecting the seals for cracks or tears, then clean the gaskets with soap and water. Next, test the seal by closing the door on a piece of paper or dollar bill, then gently pull it out. You should feel resistance if the seal is working properly. If the paper pulls out easily, you may need to realign the door or replace the gasket.
  • Range Hood and Filter: Allowing grease to buildup on range hoods and over the stove microwave fans can reduce their efficiency and shorten the life of the fan. In addition to cleaning the outer and inner surfaces of a range hood or microwave with a citrus-based cleaner, it’s important to remove and clean the range hood grease filter regularly by washing it in the sink in hot, soapy water or running the filter in the dishwasher. If you can access the exhaust fan on the range hood, turn the circuit breaker off and clean the fan blades as well.
  • Bathroom Vent Fans:

Bathroom ceiling vent fans can collect quite a bit of dust, which can makes them noisy and inefficient. To clean and maintain a bathroom vent fan remove the cover, vacuum out any dust, and spray any moving parts with silicone lubricant to get your fan quietly humming once again.

  • Bathroom Drains: Nothing ruins a good shower like a slow running drain! To clean tub and sink drains, remove the drain assembly and insert a drain stick in the drain pipe to pull out any hair or other clogs. Follow this by pouring a little bleach down the drain, allow it to sit for 10 minutes, then flush it with water to kill any mold or mildew lurking in the pipe.
  • Showerheads: When the nozzles on a showerhead become clogged with mineral deposits, the spray can be reduced and start going haywire. To clean your showerhead, tie a plastic bag full of vinegar over the showerhead and allow it to soak overnight (or take the showerhead off and soak it in a pan), then turn on the hot water to rinse it out. If your showerhead has seen better days, replace it with a water saving model.
  • Ceiling Fan Blades:

The blades on paddle ceiling fans tend to get dusty over time and keep churning that dust around in your room. To clean ceiling fan blades, secure a clothes dryer sheet to a paint roller with rubber bands, and use it to roll those dust-bunnies away!

  • Clothes Dryer Vent Pipe: The accumulation of lint in the vent pipe and hose on clothes dryers causes 15,000 fires annually! To prevent a dryer vent fire in your home, it’s important to clean the dryer vent regularly. Start by removing the dryer hose and/or outside vent pipe cover, then clean the inside of the hose and pipe thoroughly with a special brush or vacuum cleaner. Also, make sure to clean the lint filter on your dryer every time you dry a load of clothes.

Indoor Summer Home Maintenance

  • Air Conditioner Filter: Replacing the air filter on your air conditioner every 1-3 months allows the system to run more efficiently and keeps the air in your home clean. It’s easy to change an air conditioner filter by removing the cover of the air return, sliding out the old filter, and replacing it with a new one. If you suffer from allergies, this is a great time to upgrade to a high-performance allergen air filter for your home. If you’re not sure where the air filter in your house is located, check out our article on How to Find a HVAC Air Filter.
  • Water and Icemaker Filters: Replace disposable water filters on your water filtration system and/or icemaker as recommended by the manufacturer (usually every six months). This will keep mold and mildew from growing in the filter and keep your water clean, fresh, and flowing freely.
  • Hot Water Heater: Sediment buildup can shorten the life of a water heater and raise your energy bills, so it’s a good idea to drain the water heater each year to remove sediment from the tank. Turn off the power (or gas) and water to the heater, attach a garden hose to the drain valve, and run the water outside. In addition inspect the water heater for leaks, make sure the vent pipe on gas water heaters is clear, and test the pressure relief valve to make sure it works and doesn’t leak.

Outdoor Summer House Cleaning

  • Mold and Mildew: Summer heat and humidity can cause mold and mildew to grow on the outside of your home. To remove it, scrub with a diluted bleach solution or trisodium phosphate. Be sure to protect plants and shrubs before cleaning, and prune them away from the house to help prevent future mold growth.
  • Air Conditioner Drain Line: To prevent water from backing up in your home, it’s important in the summer to clean the AC drain line regularly with bleach. If the drain does become clogged, use a wet/dry shop vac to remove the clog, then pour a cup of bleach down the access pipe to kill anything else that might be growing in there.
  • Clean Grill: It’s cookout time! Get ready for summer barbecues by cleaning and repairing the gas grill. Scrub the grates with liquid grill cleaner, and clean the burners and burner covers with a wire brush. You can also use vinegar and aluminum foil to clean a grill. Use a toothpick to clean the holes on the burners to ensure even cooking.

Outdoor Summer Home Maintenance

  • Inspect Crawl Space: Excess moisture in the crawl space under your home can cause mold, rot, and buckled wood flooring. Inspect the crawl space, floor joists, and any HVAC ductwork under your home for signs of moisture or condensation, and inspect foundation walls for leaks or seepage. Make sure to cover the crawl space with thick plastic to prevent moisture from coming up through the ground.
  • Patch Cracks and Holes in Driveway: Use concrete repair caulk or asphalt crack sealer to repair cracks in concrete or asphalt driveways. If your driveway is showing its age, you may want to pressure wash it, repair any holes, and then apply a concrete resurfacer or asphalt sealer to give it new life.
  • Prune Shrubs Around AC Units: Air conditioning units and heat pumps require plenty of air circulation to work efficiently, so it’s important to keep shrubs trimmed back away from the unit. Make sure there’s at least 18” of room around the sides of the air conditioner, and three feet or more above the unit.
  • Check Lawn Irrigation: Inspect irrigation lines and nozzles for leaks and clogs, and adjust the sprinkler heads so your lawn is evenly covered and water isn’t wasted on sidewalks and driveways. To test the coverage, place straight-sided tuna cans on the ground around the yard, and run your sprinkler as usual. If your irrigation system is set right, all of the cans should be filled to the same level. Watch our video on How to Water Your Lawn to find out more.

 

Top 10 Ways to Beat the Summer Heat

I found this great blog here: http://www.itisakeeper.com/11727/home-energy-savings-checklist/ to help beat the heat and make your house more energy efficient.

1. Clean or change AC filters once a month – This tip will keep your air conditioner functioning at its best. The better it can breathe, the more efficiently it can keep your home cool. If you use a room air conditioner, avoid placing any appliance nearby that would generate heat, such as lamps, a computer or a television. The extra heat may interfere with the air conditioner’s thermostat.

2. Switch out your light bulbs – Install LED lights because they produce light without generating extra heat, unlike more traditional incandescent bulbs. You’ll use up to 90% less energy and save up to $80 over the bulb’s lifetime. And, the more you switch, the more you’ll save. PPL Electric Utilities customers can learn more about LEDs and get instant discounts at participating stores.

3. Use the wind-chill factor – Try using a portable fan to blow cooler air toward your face or feet. Also, don’t forget to turn your ceiling fan off when you leave the room. Remember, fans cool people, not rooms.

4. Save it for later – Feel like procrastinating on some of those household tasks? Now you have good reason to. Wait to do heat producing tasks like baking, using the dishwasher and doing the laundry until cooler hours like late afternoons and evenings.

5. Use windows and blinds to your advantage – Open your windows to let in the cooler air at night. Close your blinds or curtains during the day to keep sunlight from heating up the air inside your house. Have you tried insulated or blackout curtains? They do a terrific job keeping the sun at bay.

6. Get low – When it’s really hot out, try hanging out in the basement or lowest floor in your home. You’ll stay cool as your home’s cold air naturally sinks to your level.

7. Program your thermostat – When no one is home, why waste energy cooling your home? Program your thermostat to a higher temperature when the house is empty. You can save about 1-3 percent per degree, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.  Here are some options.

8. Keep air vents clear – Chances are, somewhere in your house a vent is being partially blocked by furniture or drapery. Take a few minutes to rearrange your furniture so that all vents are exposed for maximum efficiency, or install vent deflectors. They’re inexpensive and will redirect the air flow around obstructions.

9. Switch up how you cook – Avoid using the oven because it can turn your house into an oven. Instead, step outside and use your grill. Or, use the microwave or a slow cooker. Better yet, try meals and snacks that don’t require cooking, like a refreshing salad.

10. Seal it up — Make sure cracks and gaps around doors and windows are sealed. Just as you don’t want to let cold air into your home in winter, you also don’t want to let warm air in during the summer.

Beat the Heat

DIY Fairy Garden

fairygarden-300x200FAIRY GARDENS

A fairy is a small, imaginary creature or mythical being of human form that has magical powers. Fairies are said to bring good luck.

Creating a fairy garden is a good way to lure fairies and good luck to your home. A fairy garden is a small garden with living plants and little structures used to create the appearance of a fairy’s home. You can devote a small corner of your garden to one or plant one in a container. Fairy gardens in containers are ideal green spaces for small places that work well in offices or on top of tables as centerpieces. And, containers can be moved from inside to outside as the weather allows.

If you’re not sure how to create your own fairy garden, here are some suggestions on how to get started.

Buy a Kit  

You can purchase a Fairy Gardening™ kit that includes the following:

  • Box for planting
  • A lid that becomes a saucer
  • Arbor with bench
  • Birdbath
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Tiny pebbles to form a path
  • Fairy Dust

This is an easy way to create your own garden and the kit includes everything you will need, except for the live plants and soil.

Be Creative

Fairy gardening encourages you to stretch your imagination. Fairies love creativity, so don’t be afraid to let your imagination run wild. Try to create places for your fairies to play, sleep, and hide.

If you have purchased a kit, don’t stop there. Additional pieces can be purchased and added. Don’t be afraid to continually change around the furniture in your garden. Cottages, swings, tables, and chairs are just a few of the items that you can purchase to add to your garden.

Take a walk around your house and lawn to see what else you might add. Stones, twigs, and dried flowers are a few things you might find to add some interest. Also try adding some seasonal appropriate decorations around holiday times.

Plants

Lots of different plants can be used in your fairy garden. Again, use your imagination to create a garden that is personal to you. Small plants are great to use because they won’t overpower your decorations. If you have an arbor or a swing, climbing plants are fun to add. Here are a few plant suggestions:

  • Club moss
  • Bonsai
  • Ferns
  • Ivy
  • Polka-dot plant
  • Baby’s tears
  • Hens and chicks
  • Even herbs!

If you are unsure of how to position your plants, you can find patterns for gardens online that you can print and use as a guide.

After planting, fairy gardens are very easy to care for. Water as necessary and empty extra water from the saucer as it accumulates. Once a month you can fertilize with an all purpose general fertilizer following label instructions. If any of your plants get too large, you can simply cut them back. Just don’t cut a plant back by more than half its size.

Have fun creating your garden and when it is done relax and enjoy it. If you are in need of a bit of extra luck, simply sprinkle some fairy dust (sparkles) onto your garden while making a wish!

For more excellent blog posts check out their website here:  https://www.shelmerdine.com/plant-info/gardening-tips/

VEGETABLE GARDENING BASICS

straight-row-gardenVEGETABLE GARDENING BASICS

If you are new to gardening, be sure to read these vegetable gardening basics for beginners. Learning these skills and techniques will make your gardening experience far more pleasant and rewarding.

Planning the Garden Location

Choosing a location for your garden is the most important step in the garden planning process. Vegetables need at least 6-8 hours of sunlight for optimal growth. Leafy vegetables like spinach and lettuce will grow with less sunlight. Choose a location as far away as possible from trees and shrubs. The roots of nearby trees and shrubs will rob your vegetables of needed nutrients and water. Good soil with good drainage is also important. Whether sandy, loamy, or clay, amend the soil with compost. For ease of watering make sure your water source is close by.
** Make sure there are no underground cables or lines by calling Manitoba Hydro at 1-888-MBHYDRO before you dig. You may have to call other utilities as well- refer to the website http://www.callb4Udig.mb.ca for more information**

Keep a Garden Journal

It is a good idea to keep a journal of your activities in the garden. Keep a list of the varieties of vegetables grown. Record seeding and planting dates, insect and disease problems, weather, harvest dates, yields, and any other information that may be important. This information will be valuable as you plan future gardens.

What To Grow

Don’t go overboard- grow what your family likes to eat. If you’re a first time gardener, stay away from “exotic” vegetables. Kohlrabi, or other hard to grow veggies like cauliflower and head lettuce may be a disappointment for beginners.

Grow hybrid vegetables. Hybrid vegetables are usually stronger and healthier than other vegetables. They often have higher yields. Many have a built-in disease resistance and they perform well under a wider range of conditions.

Draw a Plan

It is always a good idea to draw a plan of your garden. It doesn’t have to be a fancy diagram. Remember the tallest plants in your garden such as corn should be at the north end of the garden and permanent vegetables like asparagus should be at the side of the garden.

Containers

If you don’t have space in your backyard or only have access to a sunny balcony or patio, you can still grow vegetables in containers. A container for vegetables can be as simple as a bushel basket lined with plastic, a hanging basket, or a self contained growing container.

All containers, whether plastic or clay, must have drainage. Soil in containers will dry out quickly, so frequent watering is necessary. Containers with no drainage will cause your vegetables to develop root rot. Always water thoroughly until water comes out of the bottom of the container.

Planning Techniques

Plan to use all the space in your garden. Through planting techniques like vertical cropping, succession planting and intercropping, you can make maximum use of the space you have.

Vertical Cropping

Train vegetables like pole beans, peas, cucumbers, squash, and gourds to some type of support to save space in the garden. Existing fences, poles, wire cages, and trellises can be used for support.

Succession Planting

This technique involves growing a crop like lettuce in the spring and replacing it when the warm weather hits with a crop like beans. In the late summer, you can reverse the process and replace the beans with a cool season crop like lettuce or radishes.

Intercropping

Intercropping is the growing technique of planting fast growing vegetables among slow growing vegetables. An example of this technique would be planting radishes, lettuce or green onions among caged tomato plants.

Planting Tips

For best results, use new seeds. Old seeds may not germinate well. Clean your garden tools. Remove soil and use a wire brush to remove rust. There is also garden tool cleaner available in our garden store. In the spring, never work your soil when it is wet. Tilling or digging when the soil is wet will cause it to dry into concrete-like clumps. Pick up a handful of soil before digging and squeeze it. If it crumbles easily, it is ready to be tilled. If it doesn’t crumble, it is too wet. Allow the soil to dry for a couple of more days and test again before digging. Follow seed package instructions. If using transplants, follow planting instructions or ask one of our knowledgeable employees.

Soil Preparation and Fertilization

Before you can plant, soil preparation is a must. Dig the soil to a depth of at least 6-10 inches. Add a two to four inch layer of organic matter (compost) and incorporate it into the soil. Organic matter will improve your soil structure and will add nutrients to the soil.

Vegetables need nutrients to grow. You can use bone meal or a balanced vegetable garden fertilizer. The first number on the fertilizer stands for the per cent of nitrogen; the second number the per cent of phosphorus; and the third number the per cent of potassium. Nitrogen promotes green growth, phosphorus promotes root growth and fruit development, and potassium promotes disease resistance and fruit development. If you are growing your vegetables organically, organic fertilizers like peat moss, compost, or composted manure are a good source of nutrients for your vegetables.

 For more excellent blog posts check out their website here:  https://www.shelmerdine.com/plant-info/gardening-tips/