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Pet Friendly Home by Homecheck

For many, welcoming a pet into the home is as joyous and significant as bringing home a new baby from the hospital.

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For many, welcoming a pet into the home is as joyous and significant as bringing home a new baby from the hospital. Pets easily find their way into our hearts with their playful antics and friendly companionship. When you decide you are ready for the responsibility of caring for a pet, it is imperative that you are willing to make adjustments to your living space. Preparing your home, pantry, and yard for your new pet is important to their well being and your ease of mind. This article offers pointers to those who are considering adopting a companion animal, or those who already have pets. Although the article focuses primarily on cats and dogs, many of the tips will work for most four legged friends. The tips may seem like common sense, but it may slip your mind to check for commonplace hazards when a new pet is underfoot exploring its' new surroundings. Many times we take for granted that things are safe or would be of no interest to animals. However, that adorable puppy running down the hall with toilet paper streaming behind him would beg to differ!

Part I: Preparing Your Home

When bringing a new pet home, the last thing anyone wants to think about is cleaning and proofing their home. However, taking a little time to do so will prevent headaches and possible heartaches. It will keep your pet, your prized possessions, and your sanity intact. This is true whether you are bringing home a new pet or adjusting an older one to a new home. Or, perhaps you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of losing possessions to a pet who has never had boundaries set up in the home. Whatever your reason, these tips will help proof your home for the new, old, and mischievous pets in your life.

Think Below the Knees
Get down on all fours and look around at the same level as your pet. There is a whole other world down at their viewpoint!

  • Think low! Remove objects on low shelves, coffee tables, and anywhere else that is easy access. Anything destructible, such as paper, books, anything made of cloth (i.e. laundry). It is much easier to 'chew train' a pet if they do not learn a bad habit of "where to look" for destructible goodies when you aren't looking.
  • Also think about food and snacks. Don't leave pop cans, candy wrappers, crumbs or anything else on a low counter. Leaving out these delicious tidbits can easily lead to "counter surfing".
  • Since kittens and ferrets may actually have the ability to walk on your counters, make certain to keep an eye on them when cooking. You may have food on the counter and the stove burners on - both can be dangerous. If you are a messy chef you may have a very happy kitty, but it could be dangerous if you don't keep an eye on them!
  • Speaking of food and snacks, make sure if you have smaller pets, like mice, that they are out of reach to your new puppy or kitten. Don't forget your fish - sometimes the idea that the aquarium is invincible can be tested.
  • Smokers - do not leave cigarette butts where pets may reach them. If eaten it can lead to nicotine poisoning and the filters aren't good on the digestive system.
  • Children's toys can be great fun for pets too! Make sure your kids realize they may loose their toy if it is left out and unattended. Also many toys may have small parts or can be easily broken into small parts by your pet which can be dangerous.
  • Overall keep you place picked up of daily messes. For example: Newspaper whether read or not is still fun to shred and eat. (Same goes for the mail!) Just got home from shopping? Put away the bags! Plastic bags can be either chewed and swallowed (pups) or can suffocate some pets accidentally (kittens & ferrets).
  • Sometimes pets will eat something that will require surgery to remove. Small objects to watch out for include rubber bands, balloons, beads, buttons, Q-tips, sewing needles, thread, staples, string, pantyhose and coins - to name a few!
  • Medication should never be left around the house. Make sure it is secure - just like with children!
  • Keep heating vents covered. Many pets love to snuggle up to these and you don't want your pet falling in.
  • Smaller pets like ferrets should be blocked off from holes and other hideaways - you don't want them to find a comfy spot and not come out! Also be certain to check under recliners before moving them as your pet may find it a nice place to hide out.
  • Plants should be moved to higher ground or blocked. Watch out for vine plants that your pet might grab and bring the whole thing down. * Some household plants are poisonous to pets. Here are a few: aloe verra, amaryllis, caladium, holly berries, lilies, mistletoe, mums, and poinsettias. For a complete listing check out the Poisonous Plants resource links.

Playtime
Unless they are sleeping, or eating, they are playing!! Some tips to make this non-stop action fun and safe for both of you!

  • Keep an eye on your pet at play with certain toys. Some toys don't hold up to your pets hunting prowess and become shredded in no time. Toys with squeakers are fun but many pets will work hard to remove them if your not watching. Just keep in mind if you are in the other room, you may never see them devour their cut up prey! A solution would be have toys for when you can see them and more durable toys for when they are in the yard, other room, or you are not at home.
  • Also watch older toys. If they don't fall apart they may actually be warn into sharp edges, don't let your pet play with damaged toys, they can cut themselves easily. Look before you step when playing with all our small pets. Try this pattern "Turn, Look, Step"
  • Some small animals such as rabbits are chewers and it normal to give them various chew toys such as: Cardboard boxes, empty oatmeal containers, bird toys, cardboard paper towel rolls, things to shred. Try to keep them away from your wooden furniture - they love wood! Instead wood sticks are available at pet stores.

Road Blocks
If they can't reach it, they can't eat it, scratch it, or all out destroy it!

  • Don't forget the garbage! Take the garbage outside or make sure you can close it away in a closet/room where pets cannot reach it. Not only will they make a mess rifling through all the goodies they can also hurt themselves if there are any rough objects they rifle through.
  • Keep some rooms closed. It is perfectly reasonable for there to be certain rooms that pets may not visit unless supervised. One obvious choice would be the bathroom (remember that puppy running down the hall with toilet paper - cute - but after the 20th time said pup turns from cutie to lil'-demon). If you don't have a door to a particular area look into getting a child gate or blocking it off with other materials.
  • If you have a mixture of pets you may not want them to be able to access certain areas of each others space. A prime example is keeping kitty litter from dogs, some seem to find the "deposits" tasty snacks. In this instance you can set up a roadblock for the dog that the cat can still easily climb over.
  • If your pet is especially good with its nose or paws you may want to get childproof latches. They will work well to keep them out of lower cabinets in your home.
  • Keep the lid down on the toilet, especially if you use strong cleaners. Small, curious pets may fall in and pets taking a drink can be poisoned by cleaners - some of them even contain anti-freeze!
  • Speaking of cleaners, here are some examples of cleaners that are really dangerous to your pets (to name a few!): ammonia, bleach, disinfectants, drain cleaner, oven cleaner, paint, rat/bug poison.
  • Keep electric cords out of reach or secure them to baseboards. When first home keep an eye on where your pet is at all times. Some may try chewing on the cords. You can deter this with a taste deterrent like "Bitter Apple", a mix of vinegar and water, or hot sauce. Or even better, block access to them altogether.
  • Speaking of cords, watch those drapery cords as well. Tie them up so all your window treatments aren't pulled to the ground.
  • Many animals are attracted to fire. The light of a candle or the heat of a fireplace will peak their interest. Make sure candles are never left unattended. For the fireplace make sure Fluffy knows just how close they are allowed to get for a good snooze - warm is good, singed is bad.
  • Keep the upstairs windows and any cellar doors shut. Young pets are just like children with their curiosity but can easily misstep and fall.
  • Be careful when working in the garage. It is best to keep them out and make sure you clean up thoroughly! Such toxins like anti-freeze are very lethal to pets - a drop the size of a dime can be lethal! (You hear a lot about anti-freeze, not only is a small amount incredibly lethal, anti-freeze is also sweet smelling and tasting to pets - they will seek it out!!)
  • Watch our for open dresser drawers, closets and other nice dark places, kittens are especially curious and many are drawn to these make-shift dens. Have you heard about the kitten jumping in the dryer? Its not a urban legend, be alert and check before you shut the door.
  • Another warm place kittens like to snuggle is on a car engine. If your kitten has access to your car (or the neighborhood cat for that matter) it may help pound on the hood of your car and honk you horn. If you don't want to do this every day try to limit access to your car.
  • One of my favorite words of advice when watching out for the sleeping kitten: "Locate your kitten before you sit down on the sofa or use the recliner." (Of course, depending on your house rules, that may go for your other pets too!)

Holiday Playground
The holidays are fun for everyone - including your pets!

  • Decorations should be up high or in rooms that pets have limited access.
  • Any holiday lights should be treated the same as other electrical cords. Get it out of the way or secured so your pets don't accidentally trip over them. Also keep a lookout and make sure they do not chew on them; again a taste deterrent like "Bitter Apple" will work.
  • Other holiday items to keep from you pets include: metal ornament hooks, popcorn strands, tinsel, angel hair (it is spun glass), and decorative artificial snow or tree flocking - to name a few.
  • Don't forget that holiday plants like holly berries, mistletoe, and poinsettias are poisonous!
  • Fourth of July fireworks are fun for us but many pets find all the racket frightening. One suggestion is to have treats nearby and give them treats whenever there is "Boom!" so they associate the noise with happier things (mostly used for dogs). Another thing to keep in mind if you are leaving for the festivities, don't leave pets alone out in the backyard. They may panic and do things they normally wouldn't do like digging their way out!
  • Many holidays include house guests that are not familiar with your pet or household rules. After introducing your guest to your pet, make certain you let your guests know not to leave doors open, feed table scraps or any other important household rules. If there are a lot of guests you may want to arrange a quiet place for your pet to retreat.

Home Alone
What do they do when you leave the home? Preferably it doesn't involve eating the couch!

  • Before you leave for a long day at work it is important your pet is calm. For dogs a good walk in the morning may be necessary. For cats a little play time will help with bonus energy. Teach your pet tricks and have them perform for you before you head out. Our pets sleep more then we do and getting rid of morning energy will help them settle for a nap while your out earning money to spend on them.
  • If you have a really active breed you may want to look into a dog daycare or walking service for a couple days out of the week. Taking your dog to a pet daycare is like taking them to camp. They get to romp with other dogs and usually come home tired and ready for a good night sleep. Many find that a few days out of the week is enough to hold them over on the days in-between.
  • Crates can be lifesaver when you are gone. If you have pet that is still undergoing training and is not sure of all the rules, a crate or restricted room is a must. Cautionary tale on the restricted room - we placed one of our pups in a room in our house as we went out to get a bite to eat. There was no furniture in the room except for her crate with her toys. When we came back she had climbed the crate and chewed the metal blinds on the window and also proceeded to dig up part of the carpet!

Part II: Preparing Your Pantry

Your kitchen is not only the place where you prepare your family's meals and sometimes serve them, but it is also the most widely used area in the home chosen by pet owners to feed their pets. U.S. consumers spend more than $11 billion a year on cat and dog food, according to the Pet Food Institute. And pet food manufacturers compete for these dollars by trying to make their products stand out among the many types of dry, moist, and semi-moist foods available. Pet food packaging carries such descriptive words as "senior," "premium," "super-premium," "gourmet," and "natural." These terms, however, have no standard definition or regulatory meaning. But other terms do have specific meanings, and pet foods, which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), must carry certain information on their labels. Consumers can be confident that their pets are eating a nutritionally sound food if they understand the full significance of these labels.

Pet Food Safety
When determining your pets diet, be sure to verify that all foods have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine.

Food & Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine
http://www.fda.gov/cvm/default.html

Menu Foods Pet Food Recall
http://www.menufoods.com/recall/

Pet Food Recall Frequently Asked Questions
http://www.fda.gov/cvm/MenuFoodRecallFAQ.htm

Table Manners
Don't feed table scraps to your pets. Many times people don't realize that some foods okay for us can be toxic or hard on the system for animals. Some foods to be aware of:

Alcohol
Chicken & Turkey Bones
Nutmeg Apples (stems & seeds)
Chocolate
Onion Apricots (seeds)
Coffee (grinds & beans)
Peaches (seeds)
Avocados
Dairy Products (large amounts)
Pears
Baking Powder
Fatty Foods
Plums
Baking Soda
Garlic
Potatoes (peelings & green)
Broccoli (large amounts)
Grapes
Raisins Cherries (stems & seeds)
Macadamia Nuts
Yeast
**Tobacco, although not a food, ingestion can be poisonous

Part III: Preparing Your Yard 

Your yard should be a fun and safe place for your pet to enjoy the outdoors, and maintaining it to prevent hazards is relatively easy. Although the outdoors may not be suitable for some pets, such as birds, mice, and rabbits, and those who stay in pens or restricted kennels/runs may not be able to enjoy your yard to its fullest extent, the tips below will address pets that have more freedom. These pets roam a fenced backyard or prowl around the perimeter of your house (i.e. small dogs & cats). Read on for a checklist of ways to make your yard safe and entertaining for your pets.

Yard Maintenance
When maintaining your yard you want to keep your pets in mind.

  • When working on the yard keep pets indoors. Our dogs like to chase the lawnmower - bad idea - so they now watch from inside. Some pets may be just the opposite and try either to attack the mower or try to escape in a panic - equally bad idea. Besides the lawnmowers, trimmers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, and other loud tools should not be used when pets are around.
  • Be careful with other tools such as shovels, rakes, spades, etc. Some pets may try to "help" you do the yard work and can inadvertently be struck by these items.
  • Review the chemicals you use on your yard. Weed killers, bug killers/bait and other chemicals can be poisonous to your pets as well. Some you may still be able to use, however, you may need to let the yard sit for x amount of hours before letting your pets back out. Symptoms of poisoning usually include: vomiting, diarrhea and sometimes convulsions or unconsciousness.
  • Keep your yard clean of waste. Especially with puppies, they can get in the habit of eating their waste. Besides, you will both enjoy your yard much better if it is not covered in poo mines! For cats you should have an outdoor litter box. This will be easier to clean and prevent the cat from laying waste to your (or your neighbor's) flowerbeds.
  • Remove any ladders, tools or stacked piles (i.e. wood), etc. that young pets may try to climb or knock over. If you do keep the stacks in your yard, check that they are secure and cannot roll onto your pet. C
  • Consider carefully what you plant in your yard. Plants that can cause complications include: Rhododendron, Japanese Yew, Lilly of the Valley, Peach and Cherry Trees (pits) to name a few. See our links to Poisonous Plants for more details.
  • You may want to try to keep your yard clear of the bee family by getting rid of nests on your property. Your dog cannot escape bees flying through the yard, but cutting down their numbers may help. All dogs are naturally allergic to bee stings. Depending on the location of the sting they may have to visit the vet for medication. If it is on the mouth/head it can lead to swelling and difficulty breathing.

The Kingdom
Your pets will make your yard into their own domain. Make sure their kingdom is safe and enjoyable.

  • Check the fence of the yard for holes or gaps that may be an easy escape. Make sure your gates are locked and secured and guests and children know to do so as well.
  • It is best not to have any young pets around water unattended. If you have a pool or pond make sure to watch them around this area carefully. Some trainers even suggest teaching pets how to get out of the pool or pond early on, sort of a "Swimming 101" for the pet in case they get into trouble when your back is turned. If your pet does get into a pool, make sure they get a bath so none of the harsh chemicals can effect their skin and coat.
  • Most pets are sun lovers. If your pet likes to "sunbathe" keep an eye that they don't get too hot. Signs of heat exhaustion include: restlessness, panting excessively and drooling. The worst case scenario is the pet collapsing and eventually falling into a coma. To counter it, wrap them in a damp cool (not cold) towel and go to your vet or animal hospital.
  • In hot weather keep plenty of water. Refresh and refill it often. If you keep food outside as well make sure it does not sit too long. The heat may cause it to spoil and flies may contaminate it.
  • Make sure you have shade in your yard. You may even want to add a structure such as a doghouse for your pup to rest
  • Ask your vet to recommend a flea & tick prevention plan right for your pet. Depending on how much your pet is outside, where it goes, etc. you may need more preventive tools. It is imperative you ask your vet as many medicinal solutions are measured by your pets size, weight, age, etc.
  • Your pet may like to make or find a burrow to rest in. Block off crawl spaces under sheds or decks. You don't want them to get trapped or hurt by any debris you cannot see underneath.

Ideas for your Pet Friendly Yard
Below are just a few ideas of things you may do to improve your yard for your pet.

  • Placing markers around your yard for your dog to potty on or for your cat to scratch on can help save some of your other trees. Start by blocking the trees you want to save and place toys or treats by the markers you want them to use. Eventually you can train you pet to have a habitual like for that particular log(s)!
  • Prepare digging spots for your pets. For your dog it can be a small area of dirt and sand where you keep toys to encourage him to be there. For cats you can have one container/pot with catnip or another enticement. By keeping them interested in their designated digging spot they will learn to have fun there and leave the rest of your yard alone (most of the time!).
  • If you don't want your dog in your flower bed try a wooden or stone fence. Some dogs will learn to stay out of the area due to the road block, however you may need to supplement the roadblocks with additional training.
  • Dogs are going to do their rounds around "their" territory. This will leave worn paths in the grass. You may want to lay a nice stone path on their route to beautify it.
  • Continuing with a dogs tendency to make paths, for smaller yards you can make a maze path for them. Using placing flowerbeds and other structures you can create a winding route for them for their territorial routine.

Conclusion

Pets are a wonderful addition to the family and home. Taking time to prepare your home, pantry, and yard will make both of your lives a lot easier. It may seem like a daunting task at first, however, your pet will soon learn the house rules. You may even be able to reclaim certain areas of the house as your own once your pet matures and understands not to destroy your possessions. You, too, will learn a thing or two and will begin to naturally watch out for potential pet hazards. Eventually you won't even realize your new habits. It is simply part of the lifestyle change that happens when you adjust your life to accommodate animals in your home. Just remember to be pro-active, and you'll have far fewer headaches in the long run, with great company and lots of fun! Useful Links! | Adopt a Pet | Animal Care | Dangerous Foods | Find a Vet | | Pet Insurance | Poisonous Plants | Selecting Food | | Just for Fun | Adopt a Pet AdoptAPet.com www.adoptapet.com Millions of young, healthy, beautiful companion animals are euthanized needlessly each year because there are too many pets and not enough homes or people interested in providing food, water, shelter, medical care and LOVE to these animals. Use these resources to unite animals with loving homes. American Kennel Club www.akc.org The American Kennel Club, a not-for-profit organization established in 1884, maintains a purebred dog registry, sanctions dog events and promotes responsible dog ownership. Petfinder.com www.petfinder.org Search 193,550+ adoptable pets with our advanced search or our Quick Search. Locate shelters and rescue groups currently caring for adoptable pets. Browse our resource library and learn more about how to care for your pet. Post classified ads for lost or found pets, pets wanted, and pets needing homes. Sign up to be a volunteer to help your local shelter or rescue group. Animal Care Doctors Foster & Smith Pet Care www.drsfostersmith.com At Drs. Foster & Smith we care about the health & safety of your pet. That's why we've developed this resource for pet owners like you. Healthy Pet www.healthypet.com The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) is an international association of more than 33,000 veterinary care providers who treat companion animals. Established in 1933, AAHA is well known among veterinarians and pet owners for its standards for hospitals and pet health care. PetEducation.com www.peteducation.com Fulfilling their commitment to provide pet owners with trustworthy pet care information, every Drs. Foster & Smith catalog contains up to 30 articles written by the doctors about the health and care of pets. Veterinary Partner www.veterinarypartner.com VeterinaryPartner.com is here to support your veterinarian and you in the care of your companion animals by providing reliable, up-to-date animal health information from the veterinarians and experts of the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), the world's first and largest online veterinary database and community. Dangerous Foods PetEducation.com www.peteducation.com - Dogs, Cats Some foods which are edible for humans, and even other species of animals, can pose hazards for dogs because of their different metabolism. PetPlace.com http://petplace.netscape.com/ Americans spend over $10 billion dollars on pet food for our pets. Despite buying the best food available, some pets would rather eat what we eat. However, certain foods can be dangerous to your pet causing varying degrees of illness. Some food is toxic due to ingredients and some by improper cooking, storage or poor hygiene. Find a Vet Healthy Pet www.healthypet.com Use Healthypet's Hospital Locator to find a veterinary hospital near you or nearly anywhere you want to go! VetLocater http://vetlocator.petplace.com/ Access to over 26,000 veterinary clinics in the United States and 2,400 veterinary clinics in Canada. Pet Insurance Pet Assure www.petassure.com Pet Assure, headquartered in Lakewood, New Jersey, is the nation's premier pet health care organization with thousands of veterinarians in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Conceived in 1996, the company mandate is to enable pet owners to obtain quality care for their extended family members, at an affordable price. PetCare Pet Insurance www.petcareinsurance.com PetCare Pet Insurance Programs start at under $10/month. It's a small investment that will help you prepare for a secure and happy life for both you and your pet VPI Pet Insurance www.petinsurance.com From unexpected illnesses and accidents to routine care for your dog or cat, we recommend the VPI Superior Plan and Vaccination & Routine Care Coverage. For those who want minimum coverage we also offer the VPI Standard Plan. Poisonous Plants American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) http://www.aspca.org Please note that the information contained in our plant lists is not meant to be all-inclusive, but rather a compilation of the most frequently encountered plants. For general information on plants not included on either list, please feel free to contact us at napcc@aspca.org. Cornell University www.ansci.cornell.edu/plants/ This is a growing reference that includes plant images, pictures of affected animals and presentations concerning the botany, chemistry, toxicology, diagnosis and prevention of poisoning of animals by plants and other natural flora (fungi, etc.). Cyber Canine www.cybercanine.com/toxicplants.htm Here are some of the toxic plants you should keep away from your pets. If you suspect that your dog might have eaten any plant that might be toxic, contact his/her vet immediately. Many common house and garden plants can be toxic to animals if swallowed. The symptoms can be diarrhea, nausea, or skin allergies. Veterinary Medicine Library www.library.uiuc.edu/vex/toxic/intro.htm This database was created by Mitsuko Williams (Veterinary Medicine Librarian, 1983-2003) in order to assist the University of Illinois veterinary students in identifying common plants that are toxic to animals. This database brings together information available in library books, plants grown in the Poisonous Plant Garden, mounted specimens of plants, and the reference notes for a toxicology course (VB320) which is taught during the fall semester each year. Selecting Food Animal Protection Institute www.api4animals.org/689.htm Commercial pet food is a great convenience for busy caregivers. You want the best for your companion animals, but with a bewildering array of foods and claims to choose from, how do you decide what's best for your animals? US Drug & Food Administration www.fda.gov U.S. consumers spend more than $11 billion a year on cat and dog food, according to the Pet Food Institute. And pet food manufacturers compete for these dollars by trying to make their products stand out among the many types of dry, moist, and semi-moist foods available. Pet food packaging carries such descriptive words as "senior," "premium," "super-premium," "gourmet," and "natural." These terms, however, have no standard definition or regulatory meaning. But other terms do have specific meanings, and pet foods, which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), must carry certain information on their labels. Consumers can be confident that their pets are eating a nutritionally sound food if they understand the full significance of these labels. Just for Fun Neopets www.neopets.com Neopets® is the greatest Virtual Pet Site on the Internet. With your help, we have built a community of over 70 million virtual pet owners across the world! Neopets has many things to offer including over 160 games, trading, auctions, greetings, messaging, and much much more. Best of all, it's completely FREE!

A Greater Green Thumb

Make Your Garden Environmentally Green

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A Greater Green Thumb: Make Your Garden Environmentally Green We hear so much about "going green" in the news today that we sometimes forget that one of the best ways to be environmentally friendly is through a green thumb! Whether through careful design of a major landscape renovation or small changes to a few habits, making your garden green can be as simple or complex as you want. In fact, don't expect to make major changes in how you care for your yard overnight. Instead, consider some ideas you can implement now and then slowly add to them. As you begin to implement new gardening techniques you will also discover that making your landscape environmentally friendly is not just about saving mother nature - it can also save you money! Here are a few quick ideas to get you started on your new green garden: Pesky weeds: Yes, dousing them with weed killer is easier. However, most are not children, pet or nature friendly. Some old fashioned weed pulling can be great exercise or way to get the kids to earn their allowance. - Try to get weeds early in the year as this will mean less pulling later on. - Pulling a little at a time as you walk down a path is much better than a whole day of work. - Putting down mulch can help prevent weeds. - If you have an area that is overtaken by weeds instead of lawn, you might want to consider replanting the area with low native plants that need little attention. Return of the native: Using native plants in your landscaping is a great way of choosing plants that are accustomed to the climate and resistant to pests in your area. Although not foolproof, you will find native plants much easier to care for than many imports. - Also, many imports can be harmful to the native plants of the area. For example, English Ivy may look pretty when you care for it, but left on its own, it is a weed that quickly overtakes native plants and even trees! Research non-native plants beforehand to make certain they are not really noxious weeds for your environment. Homebrewed compost: Adding a compost bin is a great way to recycle food and yard waste and get something in return for it! Composting does take about 3-6 months before you get to use any results, but once you get the cycle going you will have a great way to decrease your garbage and increase your plants. - There are many styles of compost bins from indoor to outdoor, homemade to store bought - you can even find stylized ones that give character to your décor! - If you don't have a garden but have yard removal, check with your waste company's policies, many companies now offer to take the same items you would put in a compost bin (i.e. vegetable and fruit skins). They in turn use this to make compost for city parks. Even if you aren't using the compost, it is a great way to get this type of waste out of the landfill and to areas where it will be more beneficial. Harvest the rain: While your out picking up a compost bin, add a rain barrel too! These barrels can be placed directly under you gutter downspout or out from under the eaves. It is ideal to use the water regularly to keep it circulating. Overall this will help save on your water usage and bills! Water thoughtfully: Watering your plants properly will avoid unnecessary waste. - Use drip hoses for more even watering and to help decrease your water bill. - When watering plants, pay attention to their roots and water them before the sun is high so the plant has time to drink before it evaporates. - Using mulch around your plants can keep natural moisture in. Just make sure the mulch is not too deep and you leave some space at the base of the plant stem. Grow your groceries: What is more green then eating from your own garden? If you have never gardened before, start with a small plot and easier to grow veggies. For local advice, check out your neighborhood gardening associations which often offer free classes. Getting garden fresh foods on your table not only helps the environment but offers you better flavor and ease of mind as you know exactly what went into your produce. - Don't have a large yard? Urban community gardens are a fun way to build a sense of community, get free gardening help and again, harvest some great tasting produce. - Another way to garden in small spaces are through container gardens. Using containers to grow herbs and smaller vegetables like onions or spinach is a great alternative. - As you garden more, you will begin to start your veggies from seeds rather than buying starts at the store. When making starts of your own, use old milk cartons or other containers that you can recycle and use again and again. Invite the birds and the bees: Utilizing plants in your garden that are naturally appealing to beneficial insects and birds is a great way to improve the life of your plants. These good allies will help cut down on bad bug pests and can be fun to watch too! - Plant flowers and plants that are attractive to butterflies, bees and other naturally beneficial insects. Encouraging natural pollinators and cutting down your use of pesticides is a great combo for these natural little friends. - Some nurseries even sell lady bugs as they are a great natural defense for bug problems. - Invite birds into your yard with berry plants, flowers, and a water bath. Birds are some of your best pest reducers. - If you have berries you want to keep for yourself instead of the birds, there are safe netting options out there that don't trap birds but keep them off your berries! Plan your garden: As we have mentioned in earlier articles, planning out a garden can save you a lot of headache and money down the road. But it can also allow you to be more green. When planning your layout you may pay closer attention to what areas of the yard get more sun or rain and install plants that are suitable for different locations. - You can also minimize your gardening chores by planning certain "wild" areas or buffers using native plants that require little upkeep. Hardscapes: Finally, when planning or renovating your yard, consider the non-organic features. From the paths to the containers, consider what impacts the materials you use will have on the environment and your garden's health. - Recycled materials are becoming more readily available for constructing everything from paths to patios. Take a look at all the options and give these recycled materials a chance. - Try to get planters and containers made of recycled material. Some people get very creative with old items that they turn into planters (i.e. an old sink or wheelbarrow). - Try some of the new solar lights to add lighting features to your yard. They are earth friendly and can save you money! Useful Links EPA: Greenscapes www.epa.gov/epaoswer/non-hw/green/ Information about going green provided by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Includes ideas for homes, businesses and recreational areas. USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/ "This section of our Web site will help you find your nearest Cooperative Extension office. The Cooperative Extension System is a nationwide, non-credit educational network. Each U.S. state and territory has a state office at its land-grant university and a network of local or regional offices. These offices are staffed by one or more experts who provide useful, practical, and research-based information to agricultural producers, small business owners, youth, consumers, and others in rural areas and communities of all sizes." This resource will help you find state specific plant information. American Horticultural Society List of Mater Gardeners www.ahs.org/master_gardeners/ "The map below links to Master Gardener websites in the United States. Links to Master Gardener programs in three Canadian provinces are listed below as well. Clicking on the map and links below will connect you to some of the best, regionally-specific advice you can get on gardening." To find out more about classes, gardening tips and the best plants for your area, check out these state sites. Buy Green, Going Green, Green Savvy, Eco Products Green Cleaning Products http://www.buygreensavvy.com Quality green and eco friendly products at the best prices!

Summer Safety Tips

The summer has a pull for us, no matter our age.

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The summer has a pull for us, no matter our age. It is a time to take a few days off work, barbeque in the backyard, go for a picnic, a hike, a swim, a bike ride or go out on the water on our boat. It is also a time to mow and weed the lawn, plant flowers and finish countless chores around the home that have been put off until the weather "cooperated." Needless to say, summer is a busy time when we do more activities and chores and can very easily overexert ourselves. That is why this month we are focusing on some tips that can help you have a fun and safe summer. Part of having fun is being aware of what precautions you should take and how you should plan ahead for whatever you choose to do. But we know you are busy, so here is the quick list for a safe summer!

Barbeque and Food Safety:

Always check your grill before using it after a long seasonal break. If propane is used make sure to check all the connections! Check your individual user manual for your grill; all of these will have a checklist of items to review that are specific to your make/model.

Grills are for outdoor use only. NEVER bring a grill indoors to cook. Carbon monoxide will accumulate and can be fatal.

Always set up the grill away from the home (at least 5 feet or more).

If using a charcoal grill, use a charcoal lighting fluid instead of gasoline. Make sure to let the fluid be absorbed by the coals before lighting. Move the lighter fluid away from the grill before lighting. Once you light the fire, stay with the grill, never leave a cooking grill unattended.

That goes for all of you - NEVER leave a cooking grill unattended! Have baking soda handy for a grease fire and a fire extinguisher on hand as well.

For safest results, always grill with a meat thermometer. See the recommended meat temperatures to the right.

Before cooking or preparing anything - wash your hands! In between working with different dishes - wash your hands!

Invest in some long cooking utensils for the grill - this will help prevent burns!

For best grilling results, thaw frozen meats before cooking them on the barbeque. The safest way to thaw foods is slowly in the refrigerator.

If you use the microwave to defrost meats, then make sure you are grilling them shortly afterwards and not storing them again before cooking.

If marinating food then do so in the refrigerator - not on the counter! If you want to have extra marinade to use as a sauce later, make sure to separate a portion ahead of time. Never reuse marinating sauces!

Use one plate for taking meats to the barbeque and another clean plate to take cooked items to the serving area. Never use the same plate. The raw juices can contaminate your cooked meats and side dishes.

When hosting a barbeque, make sure to supply plenty of clean plates and utensils. Encourage guests to get a new plate if theirs has been sitting out in the sun and became a playground for flies, ants, etc. as they waited between helpings.

That evil mayo - did you know according to the Department of Health, it is not really the mayo that is making that potato salad a dangerous game of chance. Instead it is the fact that when making salads usually the ingredients are mixed together when still warm creating a breeding ground for bacteria. Instead, chill all your ingredients separately before mixing them together.

Refrigerate any left over food within 2 hours of its initial serving. If the temperatures are higher, then 1 hour or earlier. Meat should be be kept hot for serving (140°F) and unused meat should be refrigerated immediately as it cools. If you have too much left over meat, make sure to freeze whatever you won't eat within the next 2 days.

When you shut off the grill make sure to shut off the propane as well.

For a charcoal grill, let coals burn out completely. The ashes should sit 48 hours before being disposed of in aluminum foil in a noncombustible container.

Food Safety on the Road:

Wash all fruits and vegetables. Even those with tough outer skins that you do not eat. When slicing these the knife may pick up bacteria from the outer skin.

Pack drinks and food in separate containers. The drink cooler is opened more often changing the internal temperature. This way the food container is disturbed less often and can remain colder.

Once at your destination, keep the cooler(s) out of the direct sun. Keep them in the shade, covered with a blanket. If on the beach, burry it partially in the sand in a shady spot or under an umbrella.

If grilling at the park and you need to dispose of ashes, make sure to place them in heavy duty aluminum foil and soak them in water before placing them in a noncombustible container.

If you use a recreational vehicle such as a camper, always review any canned foods that may have been left there. If temperature fluctuated and cans were frozen and thawed then they need to be discarded. Make sure to thoroughly clean the refrigerator out before using it this travel season.

Bug Prevention:

The best insect repellents contain DEET. However, they should not be used on children under 2 months of age. Also, bug repellent should be applied once per day. Do not get a sunscreen/bug repellent combo as you will need to reapply the sunscreen every two hours.

Avoid using scented soaps and perfumes. Also be careful with bright colored clothes as they attract certain bugs as well. Be extra careful around stagnate pools of water, heavily flowered areas and unused areas as these are more likely to be nesting areas or feeding areas for bugs.

Wear hats and long sleeves in the woods. Make sure to examine clothing and scalp for ticks. If you find a tick gently pull it out with tweezers. Do not use your fingers as you may squeeze it too hard. The methods of burning ticks with matches or suffocating the tick with nail polish don't work for removing ticks from the skin. If you live in a wooded area, try to keep your yard well maintained, ticks do not like direct sun and are looking for overgrowth areas.

Lawn Mower Safety:

Nearly 75,000 Americans are seriously injured in lawn mower accidents each year. About 10,000 of those injuries involve children. Data from University of Michigan

Always read and review your owner's manual at the start of the mowing season. There will be specific checks you will need to perform.

If you can, get a mower with an easy kill switch, a double handle that stops the motor when dropped is a good design to have.

Keep children and pets indoors or well away from the lawn mower at all times. Don't let children ride on the mower for "fun" and it is recommended that children not operate mowers until 16 years of age.

Pick up debris before mowing the lawn.

Wearing protective eye gear is also recommended.

Wear sturdy shoes when mowing. Never move the mower back towards your feet, always go forward.

Sun Safety:

The harshest time to be out in the sun is between 10:00am-4:00p.m. This includes cloudy days as the sun still penetrates the clouds although you may not feel it. During these hours of the day you should have a sunscreen of 15SPF or higher. Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before going outside and reapplied every two hours. During really hot hours, stay indoors as much as possible.

Sunglasses that protect you from at least 90% of UV sunlight should be worn.

Dress for the heat. Wear light colored clothes of a breathable fabric, such as cotton. Wear a hat or use an umbrella if in direct sun for long periods of time.

Drink plenty of water, drink water even if you do not feel thirsty as you need to keep your body hydrated. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol as these will only aid dehydration.

Eat smaller meals more often. Eat less protein to reduce metabolic heat.

Avoid strenuous activity. If you are going to be doing really strenuous work or sports, do them early or late in the day. Take breaks often!

Need to know "HEAT" definitions:
Heat definitions from www.redcross.org

  • Heat Wave: More than 48 hours of high heat (90°F or higher) and high humidity (80 percent relative humidity or higher) are expected.
  • Heat Index: A number in degrees Fahrenheit that tells how hot it really feels with the heat and humidity. Exposure to full sunshine can increase the heat index by 15°F. Heat cramps:
  • Heat cramps are muscular pains and spasms due to heavy exertion. They usually involve the abdominal muscles or the legs. It is generally thought that the loss of water and salt from heavy sweating causes the cramps.
  • Heat Exhaustion: Heat exhaustion is less dangerous than heat stroke. It typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a warm, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Fluid loss causes blood flow to decrease in the vital organs, resulting in a form of shock. With heat exhaustion, sweat does not evaporate as it should, possibly because of high humidity or too many layers of clothing. As a result, the body is not cooled properly. Signals include cool, moist, pale, flushed or red skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea or vomiting; dizziness; and exhaustion. Body temperature will be near normal.
  • Heat Stroke: Also known as sunstroke, heat stroke is life-threatening. The victim's temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. The body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if the body is not cooled quickly. Signals include hot, red and dry skin; changes in consciousness; rapid, weak pulse; and rapid, shallow breathing. Body temperature can be very high--sometimes as high as 105°F. Call 911 or your local EMS number. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the body by wrapping wet sheets around the body and fan it. If you have ice packs or cold packs, place them on each of the victim's wrists and ankles, in the armpits and on the neck to cool the large blood vessels. Watch for signals of breathing problems and make sure the airway is clear. Keep the person lying down

Sun Safety for your Pet:

Dogs and cats don't sweat to lose excess heat, instead they pant. Most of our pets know better and will not over exert themselves in high heat. However, if chained in the sun or locked in a car, there is little they can do to avoid it. Never leave you dog unattended in a car. Although it is only 75°F outside, in the car it can reach up to a 100°F in one half hour. If you return to your car and your pet is agitated, wide-eyed and panting rapidly they may have heat stroke.

Always provide shade and water for your pet on hot days. If there are heat wave warnings bring them inside with you.

Animals have a natural higher temperature than humans (100°-102°F for both cats and dogs). However, anything 105°F is a sign of heat stroke. Other signs of heat stroke in animals include rapid panting, wide eyes, salivating, pale and dry gums, staggering and weakness. They may even become unconscious.

The best way to treat heat stroke is to get them wrapped in wet towels and fan them as you would a human. Some suggest immersing them in cold water, but depending on the severity this may be too much too quickly. Also run cold water in their mouth. Keep track of their temperature, get them down to 103°F. Call your vet or animal hospital immediately.

Hiking Safety:

Plan ahead for any hiking trip. Take a look at the route and consider what equipment and skills you may need. Discuss emergency plans with your group before heading out. Know where the nearest ranger station is from where you start. Also, leave a detailed itinerary with someone back home. Let them know what car you are taking, where you will be starting and how long you expect to be.

Always hike with at least one other person. In more remote areas it is suggested that you hike with at least four people in your group. This way you will have one to stay with an injured person and two to go for help.

If a trail is marked as closed DO NOT go there. If an area requires special permits - DO NOT go there unless you have already obtained them.

Be prepared for bad weather and extreme weather changes. You should have enough supplies to get you through a night if needed.

Always assume the water from streams and rivers is NOT safe for drinking.

A Hiking Backpack Checklist:
Info from www.redcross.org

  • Candle and matches
  • Cell phone
  • Clothing (always bring something warm, extra socks and rain gear)
  • Compass
  • First aid kit Food (bring extra)
  • Flashlight
  • Foil (to use as a cup or signaling device)
  • Hat
  • Insect repellent
  • Map
  • Nylon filament
  • Pocket knife
  • Pocket mirror (to use as a signaling device)
  • Prescription glasses (an extra pair)
  • Prescription medications for ongoing medical conditions
  • Radio with batteries
  • Space blanket or a piece of plastic (to use for warmth or shelter)
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Trash bag (makes an adequate poncho)
  • Water Waterproof matches or matches in a waterproof tin
  • Water purification tablets
  • Whistle (to scare off animals or to use as a signaling device)

Survival Pack - one pack should be carried by EACH person in your group and should include: a pocket knife, compass, whistle, space blanket, nylon filament, water purification tablets, matches and candle in a waterproof container.

Bicycle, Skateboard & Scooter Safety:

Always wear a helmet when bicycling. If on a scooter or skateboard, wear the proper protective gear such as knee and elbow pads and a helmet.

Only ride a bike that is properly fitted for you. If not fitted correctly you may hurt your knees, back, arms and will not be able to maneuver or stop as well as you should be able.

When entering the roadway from the driveway - always look! This is a high accident area as many cars do not see those coming out of driveways on bikes, skateboards and scooters.

If traveling on the road, make sure to follow all the road signs and lights. Bicyclists should follow the same rules as cars and use standard hand signals. Skateboard and scooter users should be extra carful on roads as well. HOWEVER, it is strongly suggested that scooters users stay on sidewalks and skateboarders stay well away from roads, preferably skate at the skate park.

Be predictable. Do not weave in and out of the roadway or cars. If you come to an obstruction in your path, stop and look around and behind you before going around it. A sudden swerve out into the road will not be anticipated by automobiles that are traveling much faster than you are.

Pay attention at all times. Obstructions such as wet leaves or loose gravel may come upon you quick if you are not paying attention. Also be careful around parked cars, you may not see someone opening the car door until you are right on top of it.

Try to avoid being out on the road at night or in bad weather. If you are out, be extra careful; imagine the cars cannot see you and ride defensively. You should have bright colored clothing and reflectors or battery operated lights as well.

All skateboarders should learn out to fall. Considering fractures and breaks from falls are the most common skateboard injuries, knowing how to brace yourself is important. If starting out in the sport, start small, skateboarding is just like any other sport, it takes practice and time to develop the skill.

When riding on the trails always give pedestrians the right of way. If passing from behind let them know by using a bell or stating "on your left," before passing. Keep a controlled speed on trails as you do not always know who is there around the bend. If the trail is shared with horses, slow down and give them a wide space when passing. Again, let them know you are coming by stating "on your left."

Water Safety:

Learn to swim! This is a skill everyone should take time to learn. Even the basic knowledge can help!

Children and inexperienced swimmers should use an approved floatation device/life jacket when in or, in the case of children, near the water.

Never leave a child alone around water. Make sure someone is watching them at all times!

Never swim alone. Always swim with a friend or in a supervised area. Never snorkel alone. Never surf alone.

Read and OBEY all posted signs. Do not dive in the water unless the area is clearly marked as safe. Even when marked, make sure to check for any person or debris below before diving. If the area is not marked, always enter feet first.

If swimming in lakes, rivers, or the ocean, be familiar with these bodies of water. Make sure you are aware of risks such as debris, under tows, and currents. Also, always be aware of your energy level; you need enough energy to make it back to shore!

Pay attention to your surroundings. Pay attention to the weather. At the first sign of bad weather, leave the water!

If pulled out by an ocean current do not swim against it. Instead swim parallel to it gradually moving towards the shore. You have to move out of the current by swimming across it before you can head back inland. Think of an arc instead of a straight line.

Check surf conditions before entering the water. Keep away from piers and pilings when in the water. Watch out for wildlife and have some basic knowledge of what animals and plants are in the water. Know what you need to avoid and leave wildlife alone!

Do NOT mix alcohol and swimming activities - they do not mix!

If you own your own pool, make sure it is supplied with emergency equipment and first aid. Keep a phone nearby and have instructions for emergencies posted. Have CPR instructions and make sure to take lessons in CPR. Every adult responsible for watching kids around the pool should have CPR training.

Take lessons before attempting SCUBA diving. Never dive alone. Only dive for areas you are trained for. Be familiar with your equipment and check it often.

Boating & Watercraft Safety:

Always have on life jackets. Make sure they properly fit everyone on your boat - especially children!

Learn to swim! Also, take a boating class, learn everything from navigation rules to information about your particular boat.

Do NOT mix alcohol and boating activities - they do not mix!

Let someone on shore know how long you will be gone and where you are going.

When using jet skis or other personal watercraft make sure to know the rules of the water body you are on and obey these rules. Be courteous to others and look out for swimmers, skiers in the water, etc.

Do not water ski at night. Always have someone in the boat to watch and aid the skier. Always approach a skier in the water with the engine off.

If fishing, scale, gut and clean the fish as soon as they are caught. Wrap fish separately in plastic and keep on ice. It is recommended that fish be cooked and eaten within 2 days or frozen. Frozen fish can last up to 6 months. Shellfish should be kept alive until cooked. Lobsters and crabs should be cooked the same day they were caught. Oysters, mussels and clams should be cooked within 5 days.

Budgeting for the Holidays and Special Events

Big events and holidays can often mean big spending. A little pre-planning can help to ease and avoid financial pain.

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Big events and holidays can often mean big spending. A little pre-planning can help to ease and avoid financial pain. To the left are some worksheets that may be used when planning holiday or big event spending. In the meantime, here are some other tips for not overspending:

Set a Limit - Before any spending spree begins, make sure you know your limit. Set your cap a bit below as last minute expenses may arise. Did you account for mailing the gift? Gift wrap? The unexpected can creep on you before you know it! Also, take a look at how much you have spent in the past. Was it too much? What expenses surprised you? Asking questions like these will help you plan for the holidays and events to come.

Make a Gift List - Instead of hoping for something to catch your eye, keep a list of gift ideas. This way you will know what you are looking for and be able to better preplan the budget. This will also prevent buyers remorse - sometimes that gift that seemed like a great idea when you were in the store may not be so great when you sit down to gift wrap it.

Pay Cash - Credit cards are easy to use but not all of us are good at paying them off as soon as the bill comes. Taking cash helps you stick to your budget. Another alternative is the prepaid credit cards that you load with a limited amount in advance. Many also find these pre-paid credit cards a nice alternative to use for online purchases for extra credit protection.

Shop Early or Late - Depending on how far in advance you like, plan to shop either in advance of the holiday season or post-holiday season with the next year in mind. This will allow you to stick to a budget and not get caught up in last minute buys. It will also relieve a lot of the stress that comes with shopping during the busiest shopping days of the year!

Allow Time for Shipped Gifts - Plan ahead if you are shipping gifts to friends and relatives far away. Waiting until the last minute will mean more expensive postage to get gifts to the door on time.

Take Time to 'Comparison Shop' - Some of us get our list together and then just want to get it over and done with. Be patient, compare store prices and options before you go out to buy. This will help stretch that budget further.

Be Creative - Have fun with your gift ideas. Consider homemade or crafted gifts; however, don't forget the time involved making these items! Or make your own gift baskets - know a lot of chocolate lovers? Instead of buying a pre-made gift set - make your own basket of local chocolates or goodies.

How to Hire a Home Inspector

You need an experienced professional.

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So, you are buying or selling a home and you feel that you need an experienced professional to inspect the property so that you go into the sale/purchase knowing everything that you need to know to make the proper decisions and arrive at the dollar/value amount that the property is worth to you. But, how do you go about it? All of the Inspectors’ ads seem the same - they all tout the same lines of how great they are, etc., etc. It’s impossible to get a referral because you really don’t know anyone who has bought or sold a home recently, and you surely don’t trust the Realtor's choice because you are pretty sure the Inspectors that they use are “their good Ol' boys” that solicit the Realtors for work. So, what’s a person to do? 

Well, let me make it easy for you to cut right through all of the hype and “fairy tales.” I’m going to give you a downloadable short chart that you can print. On the chart will be a few of the most pertinent questions you would want to be asking of your prospective Inspector as to his/her qualifications to be sure that they will be the one that will give you the knowledge and peace of mind to move forward into one of the biggest investments/transactions you will make in your life. If you use the chart as it is designed to be used, you will be able to fill in the boxes below each Inspector's name with check marks or minimal info relating to the answers you receive from the several Inspectors that you interview. It will become evident in short order who is the most qualified Inspector that you should hire, unless, of course, you are an individual that is of the opinion that all Inspectors are the same, all inspection reports are the same, and the only difference is who is the cheapest, which, in that case, I’m sure that you will get exactly what you bargained for. Besides, who better than the Inspector himself knows what he/she is worth! Download the Home Inspectors Hiring Questionnaire as a printable PDF file.

Finally, for those that really want to know who they are hiring to perform such an important service for them, I will give you a list of additional questions that you can ask that will further qualify an Inspector to you, if you wish to know more and take the time to ask them. Hey, you’re only talking about a few hundred thousand dollars of your hard earned money here, so taking a few extra minutes of your time to hire a true professional who will be supplying you with the knowledge and peace of mind that you need at a cost of less than ½ of 1% of what the transaction will be is, well, maybe worth the extra effort. I’ll make it even easier for you; I’ll give you some links (see box to the right) to go to so you can check if the answers the Inspectors give you are true.

So, roll up your sleeves, pull out the telephone book, and go online and decide on a few Inspectors that on the surface look promising. Write their names at the top of the columns and then start dialing the phone and asking the questions and filling in the blank boxes with check marks and info.

Questions To Ask:

  1. How long have you been inspecting?
  2. How long have you been in the Construction and Home Repair business?
  3. Are you “certified” by any national organization as a Home Inspector? Are you a licensed General Contractor?
  4. Are you licensed in any thing?
  5. Have you ever hands-on built a home from scratch? If so what, where, when?
  6. Have you ever spent any “real” time in the home repair field? If so, what, when?
  7. Do you solicit realtors to obtain your work/inspections?
  8. What, EXACTLY, do you inspect and include in your inspection report?
  9. Is the report computer generated, easy to understand and have digital color pictures? Do you offer a money back guarantee?
  10. How long will the inspection take?
  11. What is your fee?

These should be the short list, lucky thirteen if you will, that should shed a little light on just how much experience your Inspector has, how qualified they are and the basics of what you can expect from them should you hire them. http://www.unbiasedinspections.com/index.htm

Additional Questions You May Want To Ask:

  1. Do have a website and what is its address?
  2. Do you have any references you would like to share with me?
  3. Can I accompany you during the inspection?
  4. Have you ever been sued over one of your inspections?
  5. How do you stand behind your inspection if a problem comes up?
  6. How much continuing education do you take every year? What other services do you offer?
  7. Do you belong to the local Realtors Board?
  8. Do you advertise in any of the real estate companies’ sales fliers?
  9. What/whose Standards of Practice do you inspect to?
  10. What Home Inspection organization(s) are you most proud to belong to and why?

MY ANSWERS To The Questions:

I have been in the Home Inspection business for 40 years.

I have been in the Construction and Home Repair business for 45 years.

I am certified as a Home Inspector by the following organizations: CalNACHI, NACHI International, IHINA.

I have been a licensed General Contractor since 1977.

I am licensed in the following: California General Contractor & California Structural Pest Inspector.

I have built many structures since 1977, including such projects as a geodesic dome home.

I have 45 years of hands-on “real” time in the home repair field/structural pest control business.

I do NOT solicit realtors to obtain inspection work.

For each report I inspect all visible and accessible portions and systems of the house and property.

Each computer generated report is easy to understand and includes digital color pictures.

I offer a money back guarantee and stand firmly behind it!

Each inspection will take 4 – 8 + hours depending on the property to be inspected.

The fee will vary depending on the property to be inspected.

I have a website at www.unbiasedinspections.com.

I have numerous client references on my website at Client Testimonials.

I encourage my clients to accompany me during the inspection, or at least be on site near the end of the inspection. 

I have never been sued over an inspection, even though I’ve been inspecting homes since 1968.

If a problem comes up regarding an inspection, I have a money back guarantee.

Each year I obtain usually 40 - 50 hours of continuing education in pertinent home inspection classes.

Other services offered… structural pest (termite) inspections, thermography scans and reports, floor level mapping, consulting.

I do not belong to the local Realtors Board in order to avoid any perception of conflict of interest or collusion.

I absolutely do NOT advertise in any of the real estate companies’ sales fliers.

My home inspections are performed under the Standards of Practice of CalNACHI (National Association of Certifed Home Inspectors).

The Home Inspection organization(s) of which I most proudly belong is CalNACHI (National Association of Certifed Home Inspectors) because of their high standards and stringent continuing education requirements. I’m also proud to be a member of Independent Home Inspectors of North America (IHINA) because in order to be a member you must sign a pledge NOT to solicit business from realtors!

- Ron Ringen Ringen's

Unbiased Inspections http://www.unbiasedinspections.comhtm

Feng Shui

Another Look at Interior Design

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Feng Shui (pronounced Fung Shway) has been used in China for centuries and has made a strong entrance into western culture. Best described as "the art of placement" Feng Shui was originally used to determine the placement of temples, official buildings, graveyards and homes in their natural environment. In China, there became many different schools of Feng Shui such as the Land Form School in the southern region and Compass (Fukien) School in the northern region, to name a few. When the western world first came into contact with Feng Shui it was labeled as a form of geomancy which is considered "divination by means of figures or lines or geographic features." Although this may be a misrepresentation of the initial use of Feng Shui, this art is constantly in flux and today there are many different schools, some of which do concentrate on the use of this art as a way to impact ones fate in a favorable direction. With this variation, Feng Shui has found a niche in the New Age market of the western world. This has added some aspects to the art that are not for everyone. However, this art of placement does have some wonderful interior design techniques that everyone could adapt and find beneficial. This article will discuss many of these interior design solutions for cluttered and cramped spaces in the home and office. It is difficult to write about Feng Shui without looking at some of the ideas of balance that have become part of this art form. First we will look at some of the ideas behind the creation of balance and then we will look at some of the practical solutions this art form has for our living and working spaces. For those who are more interested in the practical interior design aspects of Feng Shui, take a look at the third paragraph.

Feng Shui, as the art of placement, is aimed at creating the best balance of elements and flow of chi throughout any space. Chi is considered an energy that surrounds all living things. Feng Shui strives to give chi the smoothest possible flow so it does not become trapped or flow through too quickly causing an imbalance in the energy/vibe of a space. If chi does not flow correctly it is believed to have adverse effects on those living around these imbalanced areas. The elemental balance of a space is reached by balancing five elements of nature: earth, water, wood, fire and metal. These elements are mapped out using a bagua. A bagua is a chart used for IChing that is also used to plot the areas of a home/space. Each direction has an effect on certain areas of life (click on the image to the right for a larger look). The main directions of North, South, East, West and center correspond the five elements of nature. In short, the areas on the bagua effect and are represented by the following:

  • South - Fame - Red, Fire, Birds, Summer
  • SW - Relationships & Marriage - Yellow & Pink
  • West - Children & Creativity - White, Metal, Tiger, Autumn
  • NW - Helpful People & Travel - Gray
  • North - Career - Black, Water, Tortoise, Winter
  • NE - Knowledge & Spirituality - Turquoise
  • East - Family & Ancestors - Green, Wood, Dragon, Spring
  • SE - Wealth - Purple

Keep in mind some of the colors and other symbols may change depending on the school of Feng Shui you choose to use. It is also interesting to note that in some schools the bagua is superimposed over a space (i.e. in a drawing of a room) strictly based on compass direction - the chart's North points the same direction as compass North. In other schools, especially those popular in western adaptation, the bagua is situated according to the main entry to the space. With this method, the South end is always on the same wall as the main entrance so your doorway will always fall into the SE, S or SW section. Once the bagua is superimposed over the drawing of a space you may then see how the various areas of a room or areas of the house are affecting your life whether it be your career or your children. On examining the space you may then pinpoint if something in that space is disrupting the chi of the area and the balance of that part of life. Major problem areas can be fixed with various cures from mirrors to crystals. Changing the placement of objects and adding more lighting can also improve areas (leading into the interior design aspect of Feng Shui). Or if the space is fine but you want to enhance that portion of your life you can add elements and symbols to the space to increase their effectiveness. For example, hanging black and white (gray) travel photos in the NW section may help to encourage travel opportunities. Finally, Feng Shui looks to balance spaces based a symmetry, square and rectangle shapes are ideal. Odd shapes and areas jutting out often can cause imbalance in the chi. For example, if a bedroom falls outside the square or rectangle shape of the house that person will feel detached from the rest of the family and it may lead to arguments or withdrawal. Obviously this is only the tip of all the aspects of Feng Shui and its variances. It takes books to explain these concepts in detail. Let us move on to the more tangible interior design aspects of this art form.

Feng Shui as a interior design tool is truly an art of placement. All placement has an effect on chi and placement should be a conscience act. Many of these placement ideas have very practical reasons and aesthetic appeal to those who may not be interested in the chi aspect of the placement. The following list includes some of the more common aspects of Feng Shui interior design.

Keep places clear of clutter!
One of the basics of Feng Shui is that everything should be kept in its place. Keep areas clear of clutter. Cluttered spaces will trap and slow down chi but will also give you a subconscious weighted down feeling. It sounds simple enough and it is! Clear off your desk, file those papers, go through that stack of books, etc. It will feel like a weight was lifted off your shoulders and you will find that you can think more clearly as there is less subconscious worries about needing to "get to that someday" - get to it today so you can move on!

Doorways 
-All doorways should be in good shape, if they need any repairs, repainting or replacement this needs to be done. Doors should also open into the room rather then out. This will encourage energy to flow in rather then out. -Main Entrance to the Home: Considered the most important entry, the main entrance to your home should be welcoming and positive. Keep the area well lit and free of clutter. Company should come in the doorway feeling welcome.
-Common problems with the main entrance: 1) If your home is a split level you may see stairs going both up and down as soon as you enter. This will cause chi to disperse too quickly and may lead to conflict and bickering in the home as you don't see things the same way. The two stairways also cause a split view which can lead to anxiety. Cures for these entrances include mirrors or a multidimensional picture that illustrates depth. 2) Seeing the back door directly from the front door. This will cause chi to flow too quickly through the home causing missed opportunities. Also, when guests can see the "exit" upon entry it will make them feel unwelcome or impatient to leave. Fixes for this include a screen, curtains or plant to block the direct view; this can also add a rich fullness to the home and encourages people to enjoy what is around them rather then peering through to your backyard right away. More traditional cures use crystals or wind chimes hung between the doors. 3) Some entrances are small and box-like with blank walls. To fix this hang a painting, perhaps one of the outdoors that makes the visitor think of spacious areas.You may add a mirror, but some Feng Shui experts advise against this as startling your visitors (and yourself) with your reflection as one walks in the door can be unnerving and rude. Make sure the area is well lit and bright. You do not want cramped, blank entrance ways to be dark and shadowed. -Other Doorways: Keep the path of doorways clear of clutter. Doorways provide the main pathway for chi and should not be disrupted or blocked - you shouldn't have to tip-toe around a bookshelf, etc when you first enter a room!

Windows
-Like doors, windows in disrepair are not good for the home. Cracked and damaged windows disrupt the chi and should be replaced.

Bedroom
-The bedroom is one of the most important rooms of your house and the placement of your bed is the most important placement in this room. The bed should be a place to rest so you do not want to be disturbed or startled easily. Many consider it ideal to place the bed diagonally facing the door. However, if that is not possible, the following bad alignments should be avoided: 1) Do not have the foot of the bed directly in line with the doorway. 2) Do not have the head of your bed directly in line with the doorway. 3) Place the bed against a solid wall instead of a window or open space. 4) If you have a slanted ceiling the bed should not be under the lowest point.
-Some schools of Feng Shui are against any mirrors in the bedroom. If you do insist on having a mirror in the room make sure it is not directly opposite or viewed from the bed, this set up can cause unease as you will startle yourself when waking.
-Also, electronics such as TVs and stereos should not be kept in the bedroom. These items are usually not conducive for rest and sleep and should therefore be placed in the more awake rooms of the house such as the living room.

Study/Home Office
-The desk is the most important piece in this room. It should be in a command position where you can see the door. Ideal is diagonally so you can see as much of the room around you as possible. Never have your back to the door when seated at your desk. Also, if you sit too close to the door or have a poor view of the room you less control of your surroundings.
-Keep this room clear of clutter. Clutter will work on your subconscious and you will contently be split among several tasks and never be able to concentrate on just one.
-Lighting is important in this room. It should be bright but not glaring. Natural light from a window is good but should not be directly in front of you, instead it should be to your side.

Kitchen
-Another major area of the home the placement of the stove is considered key to this space. The stove should never be placed where you have your back to the main entrance and therefore prone to being startled while cooking! -It is extremely important that this room stays clean
- should be the cleanest in the house! Living Room -Furniture in this room should provide for easy movement. Chairs should be faced towards one another and share a coffee table or stand between them. Empty space between people may cause tension and more conflict, whereas having a table as common ground between them makes them feel more secure and comfortable in discourse. -Many living rooms lead into other spaces such as dining rooms, etc without any real doorway. This may cause an odd or L-shaped room. Again, it is bad Feng Shui to have tangents hanging off the main shape (rectangle/square) of the room. To counter this you may add a screen, open shelves, plants, etc. that gives more structure to the two spaces and keeps them separate. -If your living room or similar room is a sunken room make sure to get floor lamps to brighten the room up. Light will help bring the room up on equal level to the rest of the house and counter the detachment this feature may cause.

Dining Room
-This room should not be overcrowded but more spacious and inviting to groups. Comfortable table and chairs should encourage diners to take their time and enjoy the meal. -Mirrors are great for this room - double the size of your rooms and family!

Obviously this is just a quick sampling of the types of rules Feng Shui has for the placement and design of the home.

Feng Shui, although an ancient art has many practical uses for the modern age. Practical ideas such as having a command position in a room to tackle tasks more effectively can be very beneficial. There is no doubt that the various number of schools and approaches and the New Age aspects and fluctuations of this art form can be a bit confusing and frustrating at times. However, this art, whether you delve into it deeply and adopt its sometimes mystical aspects or if you only want to pull a couple ideas about placement, can still be beneficial and fun to anyone who wants to give it a try.

Fast Fun Feng Shui


- Some schools of Feng Shui believe that each person can be mapped by the bagua as well. Using birth date, the bagua calculators can tell you which directions are more auspicious than others and what areas should be avoided or countered. For an example calculator click here: www.fengshuitimes.com/resources/GuaCalculator/ There is even alterations to the bagua chart based on the astrological year (for year of the dog click here: www.bhargo.com/articles/firedogyear.asp


- Not home much? Feng Shui suggests that homes should always have flowing chi. If you are gone often or for long periods of time make sure to bring life into your home. On vacation - set the radio or TV to create sound while you are gone. Long days at the office or weekend trips - get fish or plants in your home so their energy will keep your space alive.

- Feng Shui isn't just about objects anymore! Have messy neighbors that are cluttering your space and chi? Many modern schools of Feng Shui suggest talking with neighbors and volunteering to help them with clean up projects. Not only will your chi and space feel better, you will also work on you outside partnerships and bring positive energy into your life and home.

- Not all antiques are good antiques. Antiques may have a carry over of bad energy or chi from the previous owner. Make sure to take time to calmly consider and feel the vibe from an antique before purchasing it.

- Cures for your bad Feng Shui: some schools rely heavily on cures. These include chimes, crystals, bagua mirrors, bells, golden arrows and bamboo flutes (to name some of the most common). However, some schools are dissatisfied with the commercialism of these cures. Instead they rely more on rearranging objects already in the homeowners decor or adding ascetic elements such as plants, water fountains and statues.

- My student is an A+ student! Many Feng Shui practitioners believe that you can aid your children's or your own scholarly pursuits through good placement. This could mean having your child's bedroom in the NE sector of the home. Or it may mean placing their desk in the NE sector of the room. Also adding colors of the blue and green/turquoise that represent your child's scholarly interest in the NE sector of the room. For example, blue and green planets on a mobile or pictures of marine life, dinosaurs, etc. where these colors dominate.

- Problems with office politics at the workplace? Work stations should not be directly face to face as this will cause conflict. Sharp angles and corners should not be pointed towards anyone's back other wise they will become the target of office politics and back stabbing. The boss should always have the office furthest from the front door so they are not distracted by everyday events and the distance gives them time to contemplate decisions. If a subordinate is further back then the boss they may feel like they see more and know more.

- Selling your home? Feng Shui can be considered to help aid you sell as well. One example is to make sure you don't have heavy furniture at the base or southern point of your home as this will keep you grounded. Or have a water fountain to help de-stress potential buyers. It is a growing trend and there are programs that offer real estate agents contact hours in Feng Shui training!

Further Reading Online

American Feng Shui Institute
www.amfengshui.com
To correct mistakes committed in various Feng Shui books on the market and to prevent people from being victimized. To help people discern real professional Feng Shui practitioners from impostors, and to set Feng Shui apart from superstition, mysticism, and religion. To apply the fundamentals of Feng Shui to initiate interest and research in the ancient natural science. To utilize Feng Shui correctly such that it benefits all mankind.

Fast Feng Shui
www.fastfengshui.com/articles.htm
We are pleased to offer the following articles on contemporary western feng shui.

Feng Shui Chinese
www.fengshuichinese.com
The Site is made in Hong Kong and China by Feng Shui Experts and is in both English and Chinese Languages. We appreciate your feedback.

Feng Shui Gate
http://www.fengshuigate.com/
Essays on the origin of Fengshui

Feng Shui Society
http://www.fengshuisociety.org.uk/ 
The Feng Shui Society, based in the United Kingdom with links throughout the world, is an independent, non-profit organization established in 1993, run on a voluntary basis by an executive committee elected from the membership. It administers minimum standards for education in feng shui to professional practice level and maintains a register of accredited consultants. 

Feng Shui Times
www.fengshuitimes.com
Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times

World of Feng Shui
www.wofs.com
First Magazine of Feng Shui in the World