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Steps to get your yard ready for spring

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(Family Features) As the weather begins to warm and days get longer, it’s important to begin preparing your yard for a healthy growing season. While factors like climate, soil type and grass type can all impact how your yard grows, there are a few steps you can take during the spring months to help your lawn thrive.

From dethatching and aerating to fertilizing and mowing, tackling these simple chores can help ensure your yard looks its best and is prepared to fight off seasonal weeds, disease and drought.

Tune Your Mower
Before it’s time for the first mowing of the season, inspect your mower and perform any routine maintenance necessary. That goes beyond sharpening, or replacing, the blade, and includes changing the oil, spark plugs and filter as well as filling with a fresh tank of gas.

Loosen the Thatch Layer
While it’s important to avoid working on your lawn until after the final freeze to avoid damaging the grass, raking your yard with a spring tine rake to loosen thatch – the layer of leaves, roots and dead grass that builds up between live grass and soil – before the first mow is equally important. Be sure to rake when the soil is dry; if it’s too soft or muddy, you may pull up healthy grass crowns.

Combat Compacted Soil
If your soil has become compacted – likely the effect of heavy foot traffic – and is too dense for water, air and other nutrients to reach the roots of your grass, aerating can help break it up and reduce thatch. A core, or plug, aerator can introduce tiny holes into your soil by removing plugs of grass and soil, which lets nutrients more easily reach the roots. An added bonus, the plugs can decompose on top of your grass, supplying more nutrients.

Fill in Bare Spots
If your lawn is looking sparse, overseeding, which involves spreading grass seed over your existing lawn, can help fill in bare spots. Be sure to choose the right type of seed for your climate and soil type to ensure proper growth. Applying a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer at the same time can provide additional nutrients that are important for promoting healthy growth.

Start Seasonal Mowing
When the ground is dry enough and your grass is long enough to require cutting, begin seasonal mowing. Be sure to use proper techniques, including varying your mowing direction each time to avoid creating patterns or ruts, and avoid cutting grass too low, which can make the lawn more susceptible to weeds and drought stress. In general, never remove more than one-third of the grass blade at a time.

Find more tips to help get your yard ready for warm weather at eLivingtoday.com.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash


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eLivingtoday.com

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Take on spring road trips

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5 tips to keep vehicles running smoothly

(Family Features) With the windows down and nothing but open road visible through the windshield, spring days often bring out the best driving conditions. When it’s time to hit the pavement, make sure your ride is in tip-top shape following a winter of snow, salt and sand.

Give a Thorough Clean
All that winter buildup can lead to grime both inside and outside your vehicle. A deep clean including the undercarriage, engine bay and obvious areas like doors and windows can help eliminate salt buildup. Give the interior a scrub as well to get rid of trash, dirt, debris and unnecessary items that may be weighing down your car and hurting its fuel efficiency. Plus, that clean look and smell can make road trips that much more enjoyable.

Check (or Change) the Tires
Changing air temperatures can lead to fluctuations in tire pressure. As the weather warms, be sure to check tire pressure frequently to avoid overinflation that leads to wear. It’s also an opportunity to check tread depth as it may be time for new tires altogether.

Change the Oil
While most experts recommend oil changes every 5,000 miles or so, depending on the age of your vehicle, a spring auto checklist isn’t complete without checking (and possibly changing) the oil. Fresh oil keeps engines running as intended, and by changing oil in the spring, you can help ensure you’re ready to hit the road for most – or all – of spring and summer.

Test the Wiper Blades
In many parts of the country, spring means rain. Ensuring wiper blades are ready to take on weather ranging from sprinkles to downpours is practical for maximizing safety on the road. Cold weather and ice can cause cracking on worn out wipers, which makes spring a perfect time to assess winter’s damage.

Consider a Professional Inspection
If it’s been a while since your vehicle was properly inspected, now may be a good time to have a professional take a look under the hood. Wiper blades and tire pressure are easy for many car owners to handle, but alignment, suspension, brakes and other key elements of vehicle safety and efficiency are often best left to those with trained eyes. Letting a certified mechanic assess your ride is a perfect way to ensure you’re ready for the open road.

Find more auto maintenance tips at eLivingtoday.com.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash


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eLivingtoday.com

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Why wild bird lovers should choose top-of-the-crop natural feed

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(Joan Casanova) Have you ever wondered what’s in your favorite packaged foods, grabbed a box from your pantry, read the ingredients and realized you still didn’t know what you’re eating? The ingredients in some processed foods can read like a chemist’s shopping list. Now imagine if backyard birds could read. What would they say about the ingredients in the food you feed them?

A growing number of Americans are choosing natural foods for their pets; nearly one-third say they prefer natural products, according to PetFoodIndustry.com. People who feed wild birds also want to know they’re feeding the most natural and nutritious options. It’s hard to be confident when reading the mystifying ingredient list on feed bags makes you feel like a bird brain.

With an abundance of options, ranging from commercial bird feeds to small-batch varieties, understanding the differences can help bird lovers make informed choices to meet wild birds’ nutritional needs while considering factors like sustainability and quality.

The wild bird experts at Cole’s Wild Bird Products, Co. offer these tips to ensure you’re feeding your feathered friends a healthy, natural diet.

While commercial bird feeds aim to provide basic nutrition for birds, the quality and nutritional content can vary. Some mixes contain a high proportion of less desirable seeds and fillers, offering limited nutritional value.

Small batch bird feeds prioritize nutritional content, using premium ingredients rich in essential nutrients, fats and proteins. This can provide birds with a more balanced diet, promoting overall health and vitality.

Avoid commercial bird feeds that are full of cheap fillers, such as red milo, millet, cracked corn, oats and wheat. Fillers lack nutritional value and birds will kick them right out of the feeder.

Instead, select small batch, natural feed comprised of top-of-the-crop seeds which contain no chemicals or mineral oil like Cole’s and bypass seed coated with them. Some commercial bird feeds are coated with mineral oil and mixed with crushed rock to add “vitamins.” Current regulations allow manufacturers to list nutritional components of mineral oil (iron, zinc) and crushed rock (vitamin A, calcium carbonate) separately, which can make the ingredients look more impressive. Mineral oil makes birdseed shiny and helps hide dirt and dust, and crushed rock adds weight to the product.

Take note of ingredients you can’t read; often it’s an indication the ingredient is synthetic or lab engineered. Ingredients like menadione sodium bisulfite complex and thiamine mononitrate aren’t found in natural foods; they’re man-made versions of vitamins. The rule of thumb for buying all-natural is “If you can’t read it, don’t feed it.”  

Focus on serving feed with an ingredient list you can read and understand. For instance, Cole’s Sunflower Meats contains nothing but shelled sunflower seeds and White Millet contains 100% white millet. Super simple, right?

Study birds visiting your feeders and research feed they prefer or buy feed from a reputable company that’s done that work for you. For example, Cole’s offers select natural seed choices developed and based on research about what birds actually eat. Feed is specifically formulated to attract certain species of birds as well as the largest number of birds. No cheap filler seeds are used and seed is cleaned to ensure quality – no sticks and dirt. When you know and serve what backyard birds prefer, they’ll keep coming back for more.

Supplement seed with natural foods you have at home. For example, woodpeckers love raw peanuts, mockingbirds love fruit and chickadees savor suet. Soak raisins and currants in water overnight then serve or purchase blends with a dried fruit and nut mixture, like Nutberry suet. To attract orioles, skewer halved oranges on a spike near feeders.

Buy feed from companies specializing in wild bird food. Some offer bird feed as a side product of pet products or grass seed producers. Conversely, Cole’s exclusively produces and sells products for feeding backyard birds. Seeds are packaged like human food in “Harvest Fresh Lock” packaging so seeds don’t lose nutritional content or dry out and spoil.

To learn more about all-natural feed options with ingredients even birds could understand, visit coleswildbird.com.

Photos courtesy of Cole’s Wild Bird Products


SOURCE:
Cole’s Wild Bird Seed

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Handy ways to jump start productivity in your workspace

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(Family Features) Designing a project workspace can take your creativity to new heights. Whether you’re into woodworking, metalworking, building models or repairing bikes or tools like chainsaws, having the right space allows you to focus on creating and enjoying each project to the fullest.

Completing a job to your satisfaction requires the right tools, equipment and resources to get the job done. Set up a workspace that lets you explore your passion with these tips from the DIY pros at Work IQ Tools:

Identify your needs. Every project comes with a unique set of tools and requirements for success. Make a list so you can ensure you account for every detail.

  • Determine if a large, flat workspace is required or floor space is better suited.
  • Balance comfort and craftsmanship by choosing a stable chair or rolling chair or decide if working on your feet is more practical.
  • Decide exactly how much space you realistically need.
  • Assess your access to adequate power sources.
  • If you’re using paints and varnish or other odorous substances, ensure there’s proper ventilation.

Invest in the right equipment. Having the right tools allows you to work faster, easier and smarter. Incorporating a solution like the IQ Vise System is like having a built-in problem solver with smart features that improve functionality and capability. The vise features a ball and socket design that allows articulation and 360-degree rotation at any angle for optimal work positioning while complementing task-specific jaws are crafted to create the perfect grip for an extensive range of shapes and materials.

Plan for storage. Keeping all your parts and pieces neatly organized means they remain in good condition until you need them, and you can find what you’re looking for easily. When you’re planning your storage needs, think about the space you need at every stage, including how you’ll protect a project that is in progress when you step away from your workspace.

Light it up. A well-lit workspace gives you the visibility you need to complete each project to your satisfaction. Overhead lights rarely do the trick for hands-on work, so plan to add task lamps to your work area. Look for models with features that match your hobby needs, such as dimming capabilities and goose necks that allow you to position the lights just right.

Remember safety. Different projects require distinct protective gear, but virtually all DIYers can benefit from some basic safety precautions. At the least, keep a first aid kit handy for nicks and cuts, but also consider safety glasses, gloves, ear protection and other gear that can help protect you while you work.

Find more useful tools to create a functional project workspace at workiqtools.com.

Workshop Assistants to Get the Job Done

No matter your craft or hobby, you can find plenty of tools and accessories that make it easier to navigate the intricate details of each project you tackle. Consider these IQ Connect plug-and-play workshop accessories that provide hands-free assistance where and when needed on the IQ Vise and around your work area via three additional mounting options.

Work Light: Task lighting helps illuminate dark or shadowed areas so you can see the tiniest details. A hands-free, 180-lumen work light that mounts in a magnetic holder, bench mount or clamp mount can add extra versatility. Rechargeable and featuring multiple light settings, it’s always ready and adaptable to your needs.

Magnifying Glass: Many hobby projects require intricately detailed work that’s difficult to see with the naked eye, whether it’s a minute piece of your project or the fine print on a tool. Look for a magnifying glass that’s at least 5 inches in diameter with at least two levels of magnification and an adjustable frame so you can get the angle just right.

Cell Phone Holder: A smartphone is often a hobbyist’s most valuable tool since you can use it to look up information, scan for design inspiration, record your process or add entertainment to your work session. An adjustable hands-free holder lets you get the positioning just right while giving you the freedom to tackle the tasks at hand.



SOURCE:
WorkIQ

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