Thursday, October 30, 2014

Planning Your Leaf Viewing

When is the peek fall foliage viewing time? While the answer to that question depends on several factors—temperature, soil, sunlight and rain.—generally it follows a schedule based on regions. Northwestern Pennsylvania usually sees its peak around mid-October. Consider combining your leaf peeping expedition with an Elk watching journey. There are several National and State Forests throughout Pennsylvania that offer wonderful views of eye popping color. You can add some Elk watching at several places as well. Elk Country Visitors Center is located in Benezette, Pa. The grounds open at 6:30 a.m. for those interested in viewing the elk and walking the trails. The center’s hours change seasonally.  The center provides both educational and recreational experiences. The center houses a theater where a 22-minute multi-media presentation tells the story on three screens of elk history dating back to when Native Americans lived here exclusively. At times the theater rumbles, stars twinkle overhead and some type of frozen precipitation falls from above. In the “Great Room,” where a fireplace roars on cold days, there’s also a diorama with life-like animals native to the area and high-tech interactive touch screens. During the 1800’s Pennsylvania’s native elk population had been reduced to a small population mainly located in the north central mountains. Then by 1867, the last native elk was killed.  Starting in 1913 the Game Commission began to restore elk in Pennsylvania so that today there are more than 700 – the largest herd in northeastern United States. Most times of the year are good to catch sight of these beautiful, massive animals in the wilds, but the best times of the day are early morning and late in the day, just before dark. The fall rut last from September through October is the elk mating season. The males, ‘bulls’, will fight (lock horns and push each other) for control of a harem (10 to 15 females), till one tires and walks away. Remember, elk are wild animals and should not be approached. Bull elk can be 6’ tall, weigh 600-1000 pounds and run up to 30 miles per hour.


THIS OLD HOUSE YEARLY INSPECTION CHECKLIST EXTERIOR ❏ Check for cracks in asphalt or concrete on driveway, sidewalks, and paths. These can be a tripping hazard, and can invite water that will do more damage during the colder months. ❏ Make sure retaining walls have no bulges or loose areas. One heavy rain or snowfall, and you could have a mud slide on your hands. Make sure the weep holes built into the wall are clear. ❏ Examine porches and decks for sagging ceilings, loose rails or boards, and damaged steps. Check to make sure the posts are still firmly in the ground and not loose, or worse yet, rotted completely out of the footing. ❏ Give fences and stone walls-and their gates-a once-over for leaning and loose parts, which could fall or blow off during a storm. ❏ Look for stains on the siding, which could be a sign of a water problem or a roof issue ❏ Look for signs of insect or bird nests in soffits, eaves, or attic vents. If you see signs of animal waste in a certain area, look around for the possible nest or culprit. ❏ Take note of where paint is peeling, brick mortar is missing, or stucco is cracking on the house's siding. ❏ Look for leaning on the chimney. Check that the flashing is in good condition, and not peeling up or missing. ❏ Look for stains on the soffit, which could be a sign of a leak. ❏ Examine the foundation for cracks and bulges. ❏ Take a look at the sill, checking for rot and insects. Look for raised mud channels, which indicates the presence of termites. Use a sharp knife or other probe to see how much the wood gives. ❏ Make sure the grade of the ground around the foundation slopes away from the house. ❏ Look at the roofing. Are there cracks, missing shingles, crumbling pieces? Check asphalt for dry, blistering, alligatoring, or curling shingles; wood for rot and splits; slate and tile for broken pieces; and flat roofs for holes. Be especially vigilant under trees, where falling branches or jumping animals could have done damage. Once the leaves have fallen, look more closely at where branches touch the house. ❏ Examine the flashing and vent/chimney caps for missing or damaged parts. Look for rust. ❏ Look for moss and other debris on the roof. PLUMBING INCLUDING BATHROOMS and LAUNDRY ❏ Look for signs of leaks in all exposed pipes, and in areas where pipes run through the walls or foundation. ❏ Look for signs of corrosion, which could indicate a problem with the water, or with the pipe itself. Watch for green stains around brass and copper fittings and on shutoff valves, a sign of either corrosion or electrolysis caused by mismatched metals. This will cause leaks and bad connections if left uncorrected. ❏ Check the water pressure. Low pressure could mean a problem with the line or just sediment buildup in the faucet aerator or shower head. ❏ Check drains for speed of drainage - a slow drain may have a clog or a blocked vent pipe. Look for a full swirling drain; bubbling drains are a sign of a problem. ❏ Flush the toilets to make sure they operate properly. Open their tanks and look for worn or missing parts. Then wait around for a few minutes to see if the toilet runs after a pause, a sign of a slow leak. ❏ Look inside the burner chamber of the water heater for rust flakes. Check the flame; it should be an even blue, with no yellow. A yellow flame indicates soot or a problem with the gas-air mixture, meaning the jets need cleaning. ❏ Drain the water heater to remove sediment that has settled to the bottom. Sometimes leaks in faucets are caused by hard water wearing out the washers. ❏ Watch out for cracked tiles in the shower area or around sinks. Tap on tiles looking for loose or hollow ones, which could be masking rotted backerboard behind them. ❏ Check on the state of the tub and shower caulking to see if its time to replace it. ❏ Look for evidence of mildew where water has a chance to stand for longer periods ❏ Manipulate the toilet base to be sure it doesn't rock, which might mean a leak has damaged the floor around it. ❏ Look for cracks on the toilet tank or bowl or on sinks ❏ Slide shower doors do check for sticking, rust, or obstructions. Examine the gaskets around the door glass for gaps and tears. ❏ Turn on the shower and bath faucets and check for leaks around handles and valves. Are they easy to use, or harder to turn on and off? Check set screws around escutcheon plates. ❏ Unscrew the shower head and look for collected sediment in it that could be lowering the water pressure. ❏ Examine vent fans for obstructions or dust. Turn them on: If it sounds really loud, the bearings may be worn out or a flapper may have gotten stuck. ❏ Check washer hoses for signs of aging (cracks or brittleness) or leaks. ❏ Check dryer vents for tears. Vacuum or brush out lint in hose and around lint screen inside unit. Look for link around the floor or on the wall, indicating a clog in the vent hose. WATER and SEPTIC ❏ Send out a sample of well water to your country cooperative extension to test it for chemicals and bacteria. ❏ Make sure that the well cover is tightly sealed but there is still access to the pump. ❏ Check the sump pump by pouring water on it, to see if it turns on automatically. ❏ Look around your septic tank/field for soggy ground or overly lush vegetation, which could mean the tank is full or failing. HEATING ❏ Take a flashlight into the furnace flue and look for a buildup of soot or rust. Tap on it to see what falls; rust is a sign of condensation, which is cause by an inefficient furnace. Have a pro service the system regardless of what you find. ❏ Make a solution of dishwashing soap and water, then brush it on ductwork joints-wherever there are leaks you’ll see bubbles in the soap. ❏ Check registers and vents for loose or missing covers and screws. ❏ Check around radiators for leaks, or damaged floors, which could be a sign of a leak or an incorrect pitch toward the return. ❏ Look for overall deterioration, rust, loose parts, and other signs of a failing system. ELECTRICAL ❏ Check trees around the house to be sure they're not threatening wires. ❏ Open the panel and look for new scorch marks around breakers or fuses. Also check outlets for scorch marks, which could be a sign of loose and sparking wires. ❏ Look for loose outlet covers, receptacles, and loose boxes, which may have to be refastened to the studs while the power is turned off. ❏ Test all GFCI outlets by plugging in a lamp and then hitting the test and reset buttons to see if it turns the light off and then on again. ❏ Go around with a electrical tester (or lamp) to make sure all outlets work INTERIOR ❏ Now that summer's humidity is gone, check doors for swollen spots and sticking. ❏ Look for loose hinges and doorknobs. ❏ Check the floor for popped nails, loose boards, loose tiles, and springy spots that could be a sign of joist trouble. ❏ Look at ceilings for stains, which could indicate a roof or plumbing leak. ❏ Make sure ceilings and floors aren't sagging or cracked in new places, which might mean a bigger problem causing a shift in the house. Look above doors for cracks. ❏ Check walls for popped screws and nails on drywall or new cracks in plaster. ❏ Point a flashlight into the fireplace and up the chimney, checking for loose bricks, cracks, signs of animal nests, or excess soot that could spark a chimney fire. ❏ Make sure the damper operates properly. ❏ Check around ceiling fans to be sure they're well secured to the ceiling and not working their way loose with all the summer use. ❏ Jiggle the stair balustrade to test its sturdiness, and take note where balusters and banisters have come loose. ❏ Test all smoke and CO2 detectors and replace batteries immediately if something doesn't work. DOORS AND WINDOWS ❏ Examine weatherstripping around exterior doors and windows for tears and wear. ❏ Look for cracks in window glass and glazing around panes. ❏ Check the action of the windows for sticking points. ❏ Look for peeling paint and other signs of wear on window frames and stools, usually in the bottom corners. Check that weep holes in the sill outside haven't been caulked over, inhibiting drainage. ❏ Take a look at thresholds for cracks that could let water reach the sill. ATTIC ❏ Look around the attic space during daylight hours, with the lights turned off. Look for holes in the roofing that let light in. ❏ Keep an eye out for signs of animal activity or entry points for animals. ❏ Check around vents for gaps. Look at fan motors for frayed wiring or loose screws. ❏ Feel around insulation for damp spots where leaks might be occurring. Look for missing or torn insulation, which could be a sign of animal activity. ❏ Examine joists and rafters for structural damage. GARAGE ❏ Check the action of the garage door and look for dents in the tracks or cracks in the door. ❏ Make sure tool storage and hanging rakes and shovels don't create a falling or tripping hazard. KITCHEN ❏ Test the drainage of the sink and look for signs of leaks on the faucet. ❏ Look at all the cabinet doors and drawers to make sure they open and close properly. Check for loose hinges or sticking drawer slides. ❏ Turn on the disposer and listen for signs of obstructions or problems with the motor. ❏ Try all the stove burners to be sure they turn on quickly and properly, without sparking or bursts of flame. Make sure gas stoves give off an even blue flame. ❏ Check the oven door gasket for signs of wear and tear. ❏ Turn on a gas broiler to make sure it lights properly. ❏ Make sure the gas shutoff valve is working. It should be able to turn until its completely perpendicular to the pipe. ❏ Open the dishwasher and spin and lift the washer arm by hand to make sure it isn't stuck. Check that nothing has dislodged the drain hose; it should arc up to prevent backwash from the drain into the dishwasher. ❏ Look for signs of leaking under and around the dishwasher. ❏ Make sure water filters have been changed recently.

10 Interior Design Trends That Turn Off Home Buyers

By: Patricia-Anne Tom You want your home to look its best, and maybe you’ve been inspired by the interior design trends you’ve seen in magazines, on TV or on design websites. But following some of the hottest home remodeling and interior design trends can backfire when it comes time to sell your home. Buyers want to picture themselves in a home, and highly individualistic touches can get in the way of that. When you’re ready to sell your home, it’s best to put things in pristine, move-in condition and remove all of the individual touches that made your house a home. After all, your goal is to get potential buyers to picture themselves in the home—and they won’t be able to do that if your decorating style still dominates. Check out the caveats that go along with these home interior design trends. 1. Boldly Painted Walls Decorators often tout black or another bold paint color as the perfect backdrop to metallic accessories or appliances in modern home design. The reality is that people prefer the exterior and interior walls of a home to be neutral. Even though repainting is cheap and relatively easy to do, it’s still a pain and buyers might not want to bother. When decorating, your best bet is to stick to an appeasing hue for the walls and use accessories to provide pops of color. 2. Wallpaper Bold, graphic patterns increasingly are being incorporated into interior design, often in the form of wallpaper. But wallpaper—even if it’s only on one wall—is an extremely personal choice and time-consuming to remove if it doesn’t appeal to the buyer Consider replacing wallpaper with a neutral paint for broader appeal. 3. Lavish Light Fixtures While potential buyers want rooms that seem airy and bright, beware of installing a showpiece light fixture that is too modern or ornate. Fixtures should enhance your home—not steal the spotlight. 4. Gleaming Gold Designers may be mixing silver and gold to give homes star quality, but it might be wise to change out fixtures if they have the wrong metallic sheen. Gold can give a home an outdated, ’80s feel. Switching out the faucet and door handles with a more appealing finish—such as brushed nickel—is relatively inexpensive and can help make your home appear sleek rather than out of style. 5. Converted Garages People want a covered parking space so that they have a safe place for their car—especially in areas where street parking is at a premium. Additionally, people often use their garage as storage space. If you convert your garage into a space tailored your specific needs, such as a music practice room, it may not suit your potential buyers. 6. Converted Bedrooms Like with the garage, people want rooms built for their original purpose. If you’ve converted an unused bedroom to an office, walk-in closet, or a game room, make sure you can easily convert it back to a bedroom when you’re ready to sell. 7. Carpets While designers love to play with the texture of shag carpeting as it feels soft underfoot, the majority of home buyers prefer hardwood floors. People assume carpets trap dirt, germs and odors, and they don’t want to go through the hassle of steam cleaning their home before they can move in. Potential buyers also don’t want to spend time removing carpet to expose hardwood floors. If someone really loves carpet, it’s much easier for them to add it themselves—after the purchase. 8. Too-Lush Landscaping The “outdoor living room” is all the rage, and you may be tempted to build out your backyard into a lavish wilderness of flowers. But potential buyers may be hesitant to buy a home with an overly landscaped property requiring a lot of maintenance. Focus on creating or maintaining a nice and neat outdoor space that people can enjoy without too much fuss. 9. Pools and Hot Tubs A pool may seem like a luxurious feature, but it can be a big turnoff for buyers. Pools are perceived to be expensive to maintain and potential safety hazards, especially for families with children. Above-ground pools are eyesores and can leave a dead spot in the backyard. These sentiments extend to hot tubs, too. Many people see hot tubs as breeding grounds for bacteria, and they are not a feature easily removed from the deck or back yard. 10. Fancy (or Not) Pet Products Sales of pet products are expected to increase nearly $3 billion from last year, and there’s an increasing market for luxury pet items. But even animal lovers don’t want to see another family’s pet paraphernalia in a potential home. Even if your home is immaculate, the presence of pet-related items will give the impression that it’s dirty. Be sure to remove all traces of your pet—including toys, food dishes and photos—before listing your home for sale.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Providing Food For Winter Birds

As winter approaches, you may need to change some of the foods you offer to birds. Providing high calorie and high fat foods can be important to the birds. The birds visiting winter feeders may be arriving in flocks or may come to the feeders as individuals, so you will need to provide different options for the birds. Oil sunflower is a great overall seed to offer in the winter. It has a high calorie/ounce ratio due to its high fat and protein content and its relatively thin shell. Oil sunflower has twice the calories per pound than striped sunflower and its smaller shells make less mess when discarded by the birds. Suet is a great food to offer many of the birds that will visit backyards in the winter. Suet is a high energy, pure fat substance which is invaluable in winter when insects are harder to find and birds need many more calories to keep their bodies warm. Peanuts & peanut butter are another great food to offer birds in the wintertime. Peanuts have high protein and fat levels and are often an ingredient in suet products. Offering peanuts in a peanut feeder can provide a good source of protein for birds. Other good winter options are niger seed and white millet seed. Providing Cover for Birds Roosting boxes or natural plant covers can also aid birds seeking protection from cold weather. Shelter is also needed for protection against natural predators, such as birds of prey. Cats are unnatural predators and birds also need shelter to escape from them. Be sure to clean out old nests from houses to help reduce the possibility of parasitic bugs surviving the winter. It also allows birds the opportunity to roost in a clean house.
1. Eastern Phoebe 2. Baltimore Oriole 3. Chimney Swifts 4. European 5. House Wren 6. House Finches 7. Song Sparrow 8. Carolina Wren 9. Ruby-throated Hummingbird 10. Chipping Sparrow 11. Gray Catbird 12 American Robins 13. Common Grackle 14. Blue Jay 15. American Crow 16. Sharp-shinned Hawk 17. Downy Woodpecker 18. American Goldfinches 19. Evening Grosbeaks 20. Cedar Waxwings 21. Northern Mockingbird 22. Northern Cardinal 23. Tufted Titmouse 24. Dark-eyed Juncos 25. Mourning Dove 26. White-throated Sparrow 27. White-breasted Nuthatch 28. American Tree Sparrow 29. Black-capped Chickadee

Keeping Rodents Out of Your House

As the weather turns, small critters often look for refuge from the cold in your nice, warm home. What can you do to deter them from becoming uninvited guests in your humble abode? Here are a few suggestions that are easy to apply. Moth balls! Throw them under the house, just enough that they don't smell inside the house and redo about once a month. Also throw them around the footing of the outside of the house. Moth balls also deters snakes, bugs, ants and such. You can also put a little of the spray foam in the holes around our pipes, then put in steel wool and spray more foam on it as well. Mice will not chew through the steel wool. An unusual tactic for controlling the rodent population is to give them Exlax... super strength if you can. Rodents love Exlax! Place it outside & inside. If you think a cat or dog could get at it, cover it so that only a rodent could get in and eat it. Even if a bigger animal does get it, it isn't deadly. Rodents are smaller, their digestive systems are smaller. A little Exlax goes a long way! Rodents live in communities or families. If one gets sick in "home space". They learn fast and leave for a safer environment. A mouse/ any rodent loves the chocolate wax like bar of Exlax! Add peanut butter to the bars if you like. It is "Dairy Queen Deluxe" for rodents. Once the word is out among fellow rodents about the "after effects" of the food supplied, they leave the area for healthier food, as well as, communicate and smell the "Gastric Distress and Results" of the afflicted Exlax filled rodent to the community! Mice do not like the smell of peppermint. Put some on cottonballs and place in the drawers, basement, or anywhere you think or see mouse evidence. Peppermint oil is a natural mouse repellant.

Apple Cupcakes with Cinnamon Frosting

INGREDIENTS 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon fine salt 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature 2 cups granulated sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 large eggs, at room temperature 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk, shaken and at room temperature 3 cups shredded Gala or other baking apples (about 4 medium apples), shredded on the large holes of a box grater INSTRUCTIONS Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Line 2 muffin pans with paper liners. Alternatively, coat the wells with butter; set aside. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl and whisk to aerate and break up any lumps; set aside. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until very light in color, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue beating until the mixture is airy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until well combined, about 1 minute. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the paddle and the sides of the bowl. Set the mixer on low speed, slowly pour in the buttermilk, and mix until combined, about 15 seconds (the batter will look curdled, but it’s fine). Add the reserved flour mixture and mix until just combined, about 15 seconds. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the shredded apples and any accumulated liquid until just combined, about 1 minute. Fill the muffin wells about three-quarters full (about 1/4 cup per well). Place the muffin pans side by side on the rack and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean, rotating the pans front to back and side to side halfway through the baking time, about 20 to 25 minutes total. Remove the cupcakes from the pans and let cool completely on wire racks before frosting. CINNAMON BUTTERCREAM FROSTING 1 cup butter, softened 3 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar 3-4 TBS milk 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 teaspoon cinnamon Directions: Combine butter and sugar and beat till well combined. Add milk, vanilla & cinnamon and continue to beat for another 3 to 5 minute or until creamy.

Protect Your Patio Furniture From the Elements

It is time to prepare your furniture for the winter months ahead. With outdoor living spaces becoming more popular than ever, most people have at least a few pieces that need to be stored. Even furniture that is treated to be weather-resistant or is under a patio cover needs to be cared for and maintained. Clean it up The most important step in preparing furniture for storage is to get it clean. Moisture and dirt left on outdoor items can cause mold or mildew to grow in the winter months. Pieces made from wicker, wrought iron, mesh or plastic can be cleaned with a simple dish soap and water solution. For wood furniture you can use Murphy Oil Soap and water, then rinse and let dry. For stains that are difficult to remove, make a mixture of 1 cup ammonia, 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 gallon water. Use a soft brush to work on the stains, then rinse and let dry completely. Cushions also need to be clean and dry before you put them away for the winter. If you have cushions covered in fabric or canvas, prepare a solution of 1/2 cup Lysol and 1 gallon hot water and use a soft brush to scrub them clean. Rinse cushions thoroughly and let dry. Give it a coat After your furniture is clean, a protective coating will help keep it looking good for next spring. Aluminum or plastic pieces can be covered with a thin coat of car wax to protect them and use a coat of paste wax for wicker furniture. Check metal furniture for any signs of rust and remove with a wire brush, then spray metal furniture with a silicone sealant. Under cover Furniture covers are great for additional protection from the elements, even if you are storing your pieces in a shed or garage. Covers come in a wide range of sizes and weights, depending on whether you will be storing items outside or under cover. Brush off all of the snow collecting on the furniture throughout the winter months. As the snow melts, water has a knack of finding its way to the furniture, causing damage when it freezes again. Visit our website at: