TIP OF THE WEEK

Fall is here and, if you have a yard, chances are it needs to be raked. The task can be daunting, but fallen leaves, if neglected, can smother your grass. BobVila.com has some tips to make raking easier.

Invest in a good quality rake. There are rakes made for gravel and mulch, but be sure to get a leaf rake with a long handle and wide spread of metal, plastic or bamboo tines. Using a wide spread of tines lets you maximize efficiency and minimize effort.

Wait until the leaves are done falling. Further minimize unnecessary effort by waiting until the last leaf has fallen before raking. Leaves are also much harder to move when wet, so BobVila.com recommends not raking the morning after a rainstorm.

Rake leaves onto a tarp. Rather than trying to wrangle all those leaves into the opening of a trash bag, position a tarp or sheet flat on the ground and rake them onto it. You can use the wind to your advantage by putting the tarp in a place where you’re raking with the wind. Tie the corners together and bring the full tarp out to the curb.

Be safe. Raking is hard and athletic work, so stretch and hydrate properly before starting. Use short strokes to protect your back.

Treat raking like a fun event. The right mindset can make a difference. Getting the kids involved and treating the chore like a fun activity will make it easier and more enjoyable.

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GARDENING

Composting leaves

Fallen autumn leaves make excellent compost. If you are unsure about how to compost leaves or make leaf mold, here is a guide from DIY Network that will walk you through the processes.

Leaf mold is nothing more than decaying leaves. It is the sweet-smelling black humus frequently found on the forest floor. First, gather leaves in a pile or in a bag. Left undisturbed, the pile might take over a year to create leaf mold. Accelerate the process by keeping the leaves moist, breaking up clumps and introducing air to the pile. Chopping up the leaves using a lawnmower or other equipment will also speed up decomposition. You may also spread a thick layer of leaves over your garden, then till it into the soil, where they will decay and release minerals and feed beneficial organisms.

Composting autumn leaves involves mixing them with materials high in nitrogen, such as grass clippings, manure, food scraps and small amounts of processed pet food. The nitrogen in these materials helps bacteria unlock carbon in the leaves, speeding up the composting process. Alternate layers of leaves and nitrogen-rich material and keep the pile moist (but not soggy). Remember, chopped leaves decay faster than whole leaves.

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HOME BUYING

What you should look for

What to look for in real estate depends on whether you intend for it to be home or investment. Millionacres breaks down what buyers should be looking for in either case.

If buying real estate as a home, it’s most important to consider your wants and needs and whether the property will serve as a good household in the future. Consider your own finances, the location and long-term value, the size of your family and whether it will grow. Do you like the style? Will the home require maintenance, and are you willing to put in the work?

Buying an investment property, however, involves considering the finances and the property’s potential more than anything else. Take note of the property’s condition, what repairs or upgrades are needed, and how much these will cost. Since the neighborhood can affect home values, find out if the neighborhood is in demand and what amenities it offers. Consider the potential profit given the property’s list price. What are other nearby homes selling for? Likewise, factor in market conditions, the strength of the retail market, whether it’s a seller’s market and what the average rent is like. Lastly, don’t overlook property taxes in the area and look into homestead exemptions that have been recently applied if the house is your primary home.

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HOME RENOVATION

Insulating windows

A lot of heat can be lost through your windows. Here are a few recommendations from Home Depot on how to insulate them:

•Caulking. Use a knife to scrape any old caulk or peeling paint off exterior or interior window edges. Clean off any debris. Fill a caulking gun with silicone caulking. Apply the caulk between the window frame and siding. Allow it to dry and cure overnight. Repeat as needed on more windows.

•Weather stripping. Cut the strips according to your window dimensions. Peel the adhesive off the strip and align the rubber down your window frame to cover any gaps. Repeat as needed on more windows.

•Window treatments. Thermal curtains are heavy and thick fabrics and have energy efficiency, designed to keep cold air from getting into your home through windows.

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