Home and Garden

Repairs and Upgrades: How Much Will They Cost?

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During the process of buying or selling a home, your clients often learn about recommended or required repairs and upgrades. This can happen as a result of the home inspection as well as your expert knowledge of your market and comparable homes. Of course, the first thing homeowners want to know is, “How much will that cost?”

Pillar to Post is pleased to offer our popular Residential Construction and Remodeling Estimates cost guide, which provides estimated cost ranges for repair and/ or replacement of the major systems and components in a home. It also includes general guidelines for the life expectancies of those systems.

Request complimentary copies of the cost guide from your local Pillar To Post Home Inspector or download it at pillartopost.com/costguide.

 

Curious as to which upgrades will increase your home's value the most?  Which upgrades will get you the best return on investment?  Contact Barbara or Ashley today for the answers with their free, no obligation consultations.

Natural Home Cooling

Here are some ideas on passive cooling your home to reduce your need to turn on the air conditioning.

Quick Tricks to Reduce the Heat in Your Home

Keep Your Blinds Closed

This very simple tip can lower indoor temperatures by up to 10ºC.  Up to 30% of unwanted heat comes from your windows, especially those windows facing south and west.  By utilising shades, curtains you can prevent your house from becoming a miniature greenhouse.

Create a Thermal Chimney

Open the lowest windows on the side from where the breeze is coming. Leave interior doors open, and open the upstairs windows on the opposite side of the house. The warm air in your house will draw upwards and out the upper window, an effect called ‘thermal siphoning’. This is most effective when the inside temperature is higher than the outside temperature.

Create a Faux Sea Breeze

Fill a mixing bowl with ice or ice packs and position it an an angle in front of a large fan so the fan blows over the ice.  The breeze from the fan will be extra cooling and feel like an ocean breeze.

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Longer Term Heat Reduction Solutions

Insulation

Insulating, caulking and weatherstripping are essential to keeping your home warm in cold climates, but they also help keep your home cool in hot weather. The attics of most homes absorb heat through the roof, and insulating the attic floor will keep this heat from radiating down into the house. Fiberglass insulation, at least R-30, is easy to install. The cost will be recouped quickly in lower energy bills throughout the year.

Landscaping

Trees, vines and shrubs can be used to shade your home and reduce your energy bills. Trees or shrubs can also be planted to shade air conditioning units, but they should not block the airflow.

Rock walls, paved areas and rock features should be kept to a minimum on south and west sides of the home, because they increase temperatures by radiating heat.

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Reflective Barriers

An important consideration in passive cooling is house colour.  Dark-coloured home exteriors absorb 70% to 90% of the radiant energy from the sun that strikes the home’s surfaces. Some of this absorbed energy is transferred into your home by way of conduction, resulting in heat gain. In contrast, light-coloured surfaces effectively reflect most of the heat away from your home.

How Landscaping Increases Property Value

by Josh Fredman

If you want to make an investment that adds value to your home, consider landscaping, which covers practically everything on your property other than the house itself. Landscaping upgrades can involve things like patios and decks, flowerbeds, barbecue pits, watering systems and plants of all sorts. As you enter into a landscaping project, you have plenty of choices about what kinds of upgrades to make.

Economics

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It doesn’t take much to understand the economics of increasing property value through landscaping upgrades. A well-placed, properly sized tree, for example, can provide visual enjoyment simply by looking pretty. It can also smell good and sound peaceful in the breeze. It can shield your home from summer heat. It can provide recreation for your kids, or support for a hammock. A good tree provides pleasure and utility, and these things translate to increased property value. The same idea applies to all landscaping: If a given improvement offers something that prospective buyers want, then your property value will rise.  Also, as the tree grows, the value of replacing the tree grows as well.  Thus buyers will value larger and more established  trees and shrubs higher than those newly planted.

Quantifying Value

Though experts agree that landscaping improvements usually raise a property’s value, it can be extremely difficult to predict exactly what kind of gains a specific homeowner will see in her individual circumstances. Thornton Landscape president Rick Doesburg uses 15 percent as a ballpark figure when advising clients, but he stresses that estimates vary by home and notes that the lasting effect of landscaping requires ongoing maintenance. Virginia Tech horticulturist Alex Niemiera arrived at a similar figure -- 12.7 percent -- in his research. In extreme cases, property values can more than double, and they can actually decrease if the landscaping contains undesired features that the local market doesn’t support.

Costs

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When considering the property value increase of a landscaping upgrade at your home, you must take into consideration the cost of actually installing the new landscaping, as well as the cost of continually maintaining it. If your primary intent is to increase your home’s value rather than derive added enjoyment from your yard, treat these costs as investments and make them cost-effective. Professional landscapers can discuss the options with you. For example, perennials and bulbs can add color and style to your property all year long. Other cost-effective improvements include aesthetically pleasing architectural improvements, such as stone walkways and terracing that require little or no maintenance.

Other Considerations

Landscaping upgrades have a number of variables that go into the property value equation, some of which you cannot control. For example, according to Mark Henry of Clemson University, the quality of landscaping on your neighbors’ lots also affects your home’s value. Even the general quality of landscaping in your whole neighborhood has an impact. If one of your adjacent neighbors has a particularly bad yard, you might want to talk with him to see if he would be willing to make any improvements.

Another important factor to consider is the contractors who do your landscaping upgrades. Many companies vie for this kind of business, and choosing the right contractor can make a lot of difference. Find a contractor with whom you are comfortable, who is honest and patient, and who can show you a good track record. Lastly, pay attention to the details. Michigan State University horticulturist Bridget Behe notes that a subtle, small change, such as curving the edges of your flowerbeds, by itself can increase your home value by 1 percent.

Save Time and Money on Christmas Decorations

 

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Christmas can be a stressful time for many as we rush to buy all the right gifts before December 25th rolls around. On top of that, we often end up spending far too much money as we scramble to get the Christmas decorations up in and around the house.  To help you save both time and money this holiday season, here are some easy and cheap Christmas decorating tips.

1.       Do you have extra ornaments that don’t fit on the Christmas tree? Use them to make a festive centerpiece by placing them into a bowl on top of branches and greens.

2.      If you have wooden logs lying around the house, stack them somewhere in the living room to contribute to a cozy holiday environment.

3.      Want to spruce up your bookshelves? Wrap your books with leftover wrapping paper and throw in some branches and greens.

4.      Fill your vases with pine boughs for great homely decorations that will give off a wonderful smell.

5.      Make a wreath out of a garland of lush greenery and use it to decorate your windows.

6.      Wrap festive bows over your bannisters.

7.      With the help of twine you can hang paper, wood, or metal stars from the walls or windows.

8.     Fill a vase with walnuts, hazelnuts, cranberries, and other natural goodies and place a pillar candle and holder inside the vase to make a lovely centrepiece.

9.      Use ribbons to hang beautiful natural pinecones throughout the house.

10.  Need charming holiday candlesticks? Find empty bottles of wine, replace the label with wrapping paper and ribbons, and stick a candle inside the bottle.

I hope these quick and cheap decorating tips will help make your holiday season a less stressful and expensive one! For more information about Christmas budgeting and other financial and real estate tips, feel free to contact me at Barbara.Grumme@Century21.ca.

Prepare Your Home For Winter: 10 Tips!

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Winter is not quite upon us yet, but here in the Niagara region cold weather has a habit of creeping up on us suddenly and without warning. With that in mind, don’t wait too long to prepare your home for winter before the cold temperatures hit. To help you get going, here are 12 quick tips!

1.       If you have wooden windows, check them carefully for decay or rotting. If they are damaged, repair or replace them to keep the heat from escaping your home.

2.      Another way to prevent heat from escaping is to check the weatherstripping on your doors and windows and replace them if required.

3.      Also check the windows themselves for cracks or gaps. If you find that your windows are damaged, repair or replace them before winter.

4.      If there are overgrown branches on your property, make sure that they are not too close to the home or to electrical wires. If they are, be sure to trim them because the weight of snow and ice combined with strong winds could bring these branches down.

5.      If you have stairs on the outside, check to make sure that they are secure. Their integrity is sure to be tested by the ice and snow.

6.      Check carefully to make sure that the firebox and flue system are clear of creosote and/or soot. Also check for cracks to avoid fire hazards.

7.      In order to ensure that your furnace is functioning at full capacity and that the indoor air is clean, check to see the condition of your filters. Clean or replace them as needed.

8.     Always check the smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors inside your home on a regular basis.

9.      Plug up any leaks that you find in the basement, in the attic, or in crawl spaces.

10.   Ice and snow build up can become so heavy that it can cause gutters to collapse. Before winter sets in be sure to check that all of the gutters are properly fastened, and if you notice any sagging or loosening, tighten them up as soon as possible.

While this is not an exhaustive list, these 10 tips will get you well on your way to preparing your home for winter. For more information, feel free to call Barbara Grumme at 905-356-9100.

 

Quick Fall Checklist for Your Home

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As we transition from Summer into Fall, now is the ideal time to take care of important tasks around your home so that you won't have to worry about them in the cold winter months. These tasks are pretty basic and they can save you money on top of making your home a safer place for your family, but they are often overlooked as a result of our already busy schedules. To help with that, here is a quick checklist that will keep you on track:

  • If you use a gas heater, have it inspected by professionals to ensure that everything is running smoothly before the cold sets in. This will save you money, but it will also ensure the safety of everyone inside the home.
  • Speaking of professionals, have them inspect your furnace at least once a year. Once again, this is paramount for both cost-efficiency and safety.
  • Ensure that your furnace filters are clean and functional.
  • If you have a fireplace, make sure that it is clean and up to code (beware of soot and creosote build-up). Hiring a professional chimney sweep is the most efficient method.
  • If you use a wood stove, have it inspected for safety hazards.
  • Inspect the roof and clean the gutters before the freezing temperatures set in. If either the roof or the gutters are damaged, these problems will likely get worse in the winter months.
  • Drain irrigation systems and outdoor faucets.
  • Repair any damage to your driveway, steps, and sidewalk before it gets too cold.
  • Seal up any gaps or cracks on your doors and windows before the time comes to crank up the heat. Once the heating bills start rolling in you'll be glad you did.
  • For safety purposes test all smoke and CO detectors, ensure you have a first aid kit and a working fire extinguisher, and remove all potential fire hazards from your home.

Following these common sense steps in the Fall will make your home safer and more cost efficient throughout the Winter season, so do your best to check them all off in a timely manner. For more information about home efficiency and safety, feel free to e-mail me at Barbara.Grumme@Century21.ca.

4 Quick Tips For Summer Home Maintenance!

Hot summer weather is the perfect time for taking it easy, but even if sunbathing all season long is a tempting prospect, you shouldn’t skip out on performing these important summer home maintenance tasks.

1.      Check Your Windows! In order to keep as much of the summer heat out as possible, regularly check the quality of your windows, including the window sealants. This simple task can go a long way to saving you money on electric bills as the AC works overtime during the hot summer months.

2.      Check Your Air Conditioning! One of the most important summer home maintenance tasks is to make sure that your AC unit is in full working order. Tune up your AC on a regular basis, make sure that the coils and filters are clean, and take special care to prevent any potential fire hazards.

3.      Tune Up Your Pool! If you have a pool, be sure to clean it, level the water, and check the pumps before you use it for swimming this summer. If the pool isn’t clean and the chemicals inside are not balanced properly, instead of being a source of entertainment your pool could become a serious health hazard instead.

4.      Clean Your Gutters! Make sure that your gutters are cleaned every six months to avoid leaks and clogging. Clean gutters are especially important during humid summer temperatures that tend to bring heavy rainstorms. 

If you follow these 4 steps you should be able to relax in the knowledge that your home is ready for the summer heat. If you’d like to learn more about home maintenance and how to increase the value of your home, call Barbara Grumme at 905-356-9100.

Do You Need a Building Permit? Your Questions Answered.

Summer is the time when many home owners decide to make renovations or build additions to their properties, but it can be hard to determine which renovations and additions require building permits. Here are some frequently asked questions answered quickly in one place.

Do I need a permit for a pool?

Yes a permit is required for both an in-ground and above ground pool.

Do I need a permit for a deck?

If the height of the deck is greater than 24 inches, then it requires a permit.

How big of a shed can I build before I require a permit?

10 square meters or 108 square feet.

Do I need a permit to re-shingle my roof?

No.

Do I need a permit for new windows?

If you are just replacing them no, but if you are enlarging them yes.

How large of an addition can I build?

This will depend on the zoning of your property and the lot coverage of the existing building.

If I am doing cosmetic work in my home, do I require a permit?

If you are replacing such things as flooring, kitchen cabinets, than no permit is required.

My neighbours fence is falling down, does he have to fix it?

Fences, enclosures, retaining walls and structures appurtenant to a property shall be maintained in good repair, structurally sound condition and plumb, maintained free of health or other hazards.

When building a detached garage, how far do I have to be from the property line?

This will depend on the zoning of your property, as well as whether your property is an interior or exterior lot.

For more information visit the City of Niagara Falls website, or contact me at Barbara.Grumme@Century21.ca.

 

5 QUICK TIPS FOR YOUR SPRING GARDEN! 

Spring is the season for gardening, and after the winter cold I absolutely love to get out in the backyard and enjoy the flowers and sunshine while reconnecting to the earth. For me gardening is a great way to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of the modern world, and over the years I have learned many tricks that make gardening easier and more efficient. Here are 5 quick tips for your spring garden! 

1.      If you draw your fingernails across a bar of soap you will seal the underside of the nail and prevent dirt from accumulating beneath your fingernails as you work in the garden. Once you work is done, you can remove the soap from your nails with a nailbrush.

2.      The Great Lakes Region is famous for its sudden temperatures swings in the spring, and using clay pots as cloches is a great way to protect young plants from overnight frost and freezing.

3.      If you are steaming or boiling vegetables, instead of pouring the water down the drain pour it over your potted plants. The nutritious vegetable medley will do wonders for the growth of your plants. 

4.      Certain plants such as gardenias, camellias, azaleas, rhododendrons, and even blueberries require the soil to be on the acidic side, and a great way to acidify your soil naturally is to sprinkle a quarter of an inch of leftover coffee and tea grounds over the soil once a month.

5.      Damping off fungus often attacks young seedlings and this can wreak havoc in your garden. In order to control this pesky occurrence the natural way, simply pour some camomile tea around the base of the seedlings once per week.

These quick strategies have worked great for me over the years, ad I have many more tips and tricks for those of you who are interested. Feel free to drop me a line at Barbara.Grumme@century21.ca for more info!

5 QUICK TIPS FOR HEALTHY SPRING CLEANING

Spring is finally upon us (at least according to the calendar) and with springtime comes spring cleaning! Keeping the home clean and healthy for our loved ones is extremely important, but cleaning with strong chemical agents can actually cause more harm than good. Here are 5 quick tips to keep your home clean and healthy this spring without resorting to harsh chemicals.

1.      Don’t Forget to Clean Unlikely Areas. For example, your mattress attracts allergy-causing dust mites and washing it in hot water of 60 degrees Celsius every month and wiping the top of the mattress with hot water will help keep that important area clean. Other areas that are often neglected include indoor trash cans, shower curtains, HVC filters, automatic dishwashers, and the fireplace.

2.      Old Wool Clothing is Great for Dusting! Because wool creates static when rubbed on a surface that needs cleaning, one wipe can keep your furniture dust-free without forcing you to resort to a chemical polish or spray.

3.      Clean Toilet Bowls the Healthy Way. Simply fill a spray bottle with white vinegar, pour a capful of white vinegar into the toilet, and then proceed to spray the sides of the bowl. Sprinkle sodium bicarbonate in the toilet and wait 15 minutes before scrubbing with a bit of bicarb sprinkled on the brush. Lastly, pour 250ml of vinegar into the toilet once a month and leave it to sit overnight. The vinegar will dissolve alkali build-up and prevent hard-water rings in the toilet.

4.      Toothpaste is a Healthier Way to Polish Silverware. Chemical polishes for silver are known to contain harmful ingredients such as ammonia and petroleum distillates. If you simply rub on some toothpaste to the silver surface then rinse with warm water and polish with a soft cloth, you will achieve a similar result in a healthier way.

5.      Keep Drains Clean without Chemicals. Chemical drain cleaners contain toxic ingredients like sulphuric acid and they can be extremely dangerous, not to mention that even the vapours that they give out are harmful. If you pour some boiling water and throw a handful of bicarbonate followed by 125ml of vinegar down the drain once a week, you will keep the drain cleaner for longer without resorting to harmful chemicals.

Happy spring cleaning! For more tips, feel free to contact me at Barbara.Grumme@century21.ca.

Should I Move or Renovate in Spring 2017

Even in the midst of winter many homeowners are already looking ahead to springtime and planning renovations in the hopes of increasing the value of their homes. However, many popular home renovation projects are not worth the money, and if done poorly they can even lower the value of your home. In some cases it is more profitable to sell your current home and buy a new one, and here are some points to consider when making this decision.

  1. The Neighbourhood – Do you like where you live? Does it have all the amenities you need? Does it have potential problems that could motivate you to move? Remember that you can fix a house but you can’t fix a neighbourhood.
     
  2. The Condition of Your Home – Not all homes are a good candidate for renovation. An older home with foundation issues or other major defects can be a nightmare to renovate, so before you commit to any major projects you need to conduct a thorough assessment of your home’s foundation.
     
  3. Money Talks – Does renovating your home make financial sense? Not only can renovations be very expensive, but there are also additional costs that we don’t often think about, such as temporary living expenses in case you need to leave your home for the duration of the renovations. Before deciding to move or stay, make sure that you take all potential costs into account.
     
  4. Zoning Regulations – The regulations regarding zoning change all the time and you need to be up-to-date on all of them before embarking on a major renovation project. If your home is an older one, new zoning regulations could be difficult to navigate as you try to bring all of your modifications and additions up to code.
     
  5. Home Value – If you want to increase the value of your home in the hopes of selling it in the future, keep in mind that not every renovation adds significant value. While mature trees and fencing will likely add value to your home, a new kitchen is only considered “new” for about 6 months and renovating your deck or building a pool could cost you more than you can hope to get back. For example, in 2014 a midrange composite deck addition required an average of $15,000, but it only added about $11,000 to the resale value of a home.

Think about these points carefully before opting for a big renovation project in the spring. If you are looking for major additions such as a new pool and you are not overly attached to your current neighbourhood, selling your home and moving to a new one is often the more stress-free and profitable option.

For more information, email me today at Barbara.Grumme@Century21.ca to schedule a no-charge, no obligation consultation.

PROTECT THE HEALTH OF YOUR TREES!

Deciduous trees are an important part of many landscapes; they serve as windbreakers and markers for property lines, and they also provide privacy, shade, and aesthetic value for your home. However, sometimes trees are planted in less than ideal locations or the conditions around existing trees are modified in a way that may put them at risk.

Trees that are under stress become more vulnerable to invasion by insects and pests. These invasions are often a symptom of underlying problems, such as poor soil aeration from overwatering. Identifying the problem early on and taking corrective action is crucial for improving the vigour of trees and preserving their integrity in the long run.

The first step to identifying disorders of broad-leaved trees is to determine whether the stress is biotic or living, or whether it is abiotic or non-living. Biotic stresses are the result of insects, mites, and disease such as bacteria or fungi, while abiotic stresses are the result of non-living factors such as the deficiency of water and nutrients, severe weather conditions, or the presence of chemicals such as salts or pesticides.

When looking for damage caused by insects, examine the affected tree carefully for signs of infestation. Many wood-boring insects create holes in the bark and sawdust during their tunnelling, while others such as the Gypsy moth leave behind empty cocoons. Other substances that can be left by insects include egg cases, honeydew, webbing, or feces.

Abiotic stresses can be more difficult to spot than biotic ones, but some strategies include checking the surrounding plants for similar issues, assessing the soil, checking the local weather conditions, and looking into any recent activity that might have occurred around the tree (such as construction or pesticide application).

It is important to remember that every year many trees are killed or damaged by human activity. Improper watering, improper maintenance, site alteration, construction stresses, and salt and pesticide damage are all significant threats to the health of trees in Ontario. Much of this harm can be avoided if we resolve to take greater care about the impact that our activities have on the environment, and for more information about identifying and removing threats to the trees around you please visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/environment-and-energy.

ORGANIC GARDENING IN NIAGARA

 Photo by Redrockschool/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Redrockschool/iStock / Getty Images

Most people don’t realize that organic gardens can be as beautiful and as productive as those which use pesticides (if not more so!), and it seems that many of us are unaware of how simple it can be to ‘go organic’ in our garden. The first step to going organic is to reduce the need for pesticides by cultivating a healthy lawn. Weeds and harmful pests thrive in bare and unhealthy lawns, and the best way to keep them from reappearing year after year is to remove the conditions they need to survive and multiply.

Have a look at this short and simple organic lawn care calendar, courtesy of the York Regional Environmental Alliance:

Don’t forget that backyard composting is an excellent way of producing ready-made and completely natural compost for your garden and lawn. Just be sure to use your Green Bin for products such as dairy, meats, grease, oils, bones, and fats as these should not go into your backyard composter.

Using an organic mulch is also a great way to improve the soil structure of your lawn and garden. Organic mulches are usually made of natural substances such as bark, leaves, pine needles, wood chips, and grass clippings. As mulch decays it becomes topsoil, and decaying mulch adds nutrients to the soil. Mulches actually reduce the growth of weeds while encouraging the growth of worms and other organisms that are beneficial in improving soil structure. Mulch also acts as an insulating barrier from heat in the summer, cold in the winter, and from severe wind – an important fact to consider in a region like Niagara, where extreme weather and sudden changes in temperature are common.

The ideal time to place much around new plants is immediately after they are planted, because this helps conserve moisture in the root of the new plant until the roots grow out. For established plants, mulch works best when applied in the early spring – right when plants are beginning to grow and weeds have not yet started to germinate.

We already know that going organic in our garden is healthier both for us and for the environment, but we should also remember that the natural way is also the simple way!

Autumn Lawn Care: Useful Tips!

The hot and dry weather gave us a great opportunity to get out and enjoy the natural beauty of Niagara this summer, but the extreme heat was bound to do a number on our lawns. September is an important month for revitalizing your lawn and making sure that it is fit to last the winter, so here are some useful tips for caring for your lawn in autumn.

 

Control the moss!

  • Moss is usually found in patches under trees or hedges, and it should be treated by spreading mosskiller across the lawn. In two weeks the weed will dry out and turn black.
  • To reduce chances of the moss coming back in full force, try removing those branches or lover hedges that cast shade.
  • Get rid of dead moss by thoroughly cleaning the surface with a spring-tined lawn rake - at the same time you'll be removing old grass clipping and other debris that might otherwise build up on the surface of the lawn and form a layer called thatch.
  • Thatch hinders drainage and encourages the growth of weeds, so be sure to rake it up along with the moss and then simply pile it on top of your compost heap.

Improve the drainage

  • Those sections of your lawn that experience the heaviest traffic will become hardened, which can lead to problems with drainage, moss, and weeds. To remedy this, push a garden fork into the ground as far as possible and then simply wiggle it back and forth to make air channels (repeat every 10 centimeters/4 inches across the lawn).
  • Brush a sandy top dressing across the lawn's surface so that it fills in the holes, which will allow air and water into the lawn. You can find pre-mixed bags of top dressing in your local garden center.
  • If your lawn is too large to cover with a garden fork, powered aerating machines are also available in your local garden center (or you can hire a lawn care specialist to do the work for you).

feed your lawn

  • Nourish your thirsty, heat-battered lawn by applying an autumn lawn fertilizer, which is high in potash and phosphates. This will promote the development of strong roots, which leads to healthier leaves.
  • Don't use a spring fertilizer in autumn! These contain high levels of nitrogen, which promotes the growth of soft and sappy leaves that are vulnerable to disease and frost.

prepare for winter

  • As the weather gets colder, be sure to rake your lawn regularly in order to prevent it from being smothered by leaves (this weakens the grass and provides shelter for garden pests).
  • Try to avoid walking on your lawn when it is covered with frost since this will damage the grass.

 

Happy raking!

Old Fashioned Peach Jam

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  • Prep time: 1 hr 30 mins
  • Cook time: 45 mins
  • Total time: 2 hrs 15 mins

Ingredients

4 lbs peaches (7 cups or so)

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 cups sugar

Instructions

Peel and slice peaches. For a peeling trick, place peaches in boiling water for 15-30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and dunk in cool water. Gently rub to loosen the skins from the fruit (I use a paper towel). Place slices in a large non-reactive pan. Sprinkle the sugar and lemon juice over the top of the fruit. Don’t stir–just let the sugar sit and seep into the peaches. It will help release the natural juices of the fruit. Allow to sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours.

Place pot on stove and bring to a vigorous boil. Using a potato masher or other handy kitchen tool, begin to mash down the peaches. Then using a wooden spoon or stick, continue stirring the peaches as they cook down, 25-30 minutes, or until they reach the gelling state. Using a funnel, pour the hot mixture into clean, dry class jars leaving about 1/4 inch at the top. Cap and screw on lids, leaving them rather loose. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Enjoy with scones, buckwheat pancakes, as a filling for a homemade cake (I have some plans to use it in an olive oil layer cake)–or however you like.

The Benefits of Eating Organic

Going organic means healthier bodies, environments, communities, and economies

Organics Are Healthier

Industrial farming uses more than 50 harmful chemicals, putting known carcinogens in our food, air and drinking water supply. Organic farming uses none of these chemicals. Organic food has also shown higher key nutrient levels (stats) and, on average, 29 percent lower mercury levels than conventionally grown food.

Better For The Environment

Industrial farming relies heavily on single species planting, requiring chemicals interventions to grow crops and to protect them from pests. These practices leave toxin-filled soil, water and air, creating direct and long-lasting harm to local environments. Growing food organically, without chemicals or mono-cropping, restores and balances these delicate ecological conditions.

Strengthens Local Economies

Doing what is good for the environment and what is good for the economy are not mutually exclusive. A recent US study showed that organic food creates 21% more jobs than industrial farming, with money spent on organics typically staying within 150 miles of the point-of-purchase. Organics also rely much less on government spending.

 

Natural Cleaners To Eliminate Mold

 
 

If any natural cleaning agent can remove mold, that would have to be Tea Tree (Melalueca) essential oil. Tea Tree is a powerful antifungal.

It also promotes health and immunity. So when you’re cleaning, you don’t have to worry about toxic chemicals. You’re actually getting healthier along with your home!

We use this Tea Tree mold remover in our bathroom every week. It’s also good at preventing mold from ever setting in (which I’d rather do than try to remove it). We don’t even need gloves to use it!

Bye Bye Bathroom Mold

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup borax (a natural mineral salt)

  • 2 tbsp. vinegar

  • 30 drops Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)

Directions:

Combine all your ingredients in a plastic container with a lid. (You can even use your hands to mix it up!) The consistency should be paste-like. Just apply a bit to the mold, then scrub it off and rinse with water.

For extra cleaning, you can spray the area with hydrogen peroxide after you apply the mixture, or let the mixture sit on the mold for about an hour before scrubbing it off.

If any natural method will work against mold, this is the one! It may not solve all your mold problems, but it’s worth a shot.  To order or for more information on essential oils, click here.

Your Guide To Flooring

Assessing Flooring Style and Quality

 

Carpet

Determining whether an existing carpet is good quality is not an easy job.  The quality really comes down to the fiber type, twist, density and style.  The density of the underpad is very important too.  When it comes to style - berbers are on their way out for the most part.  Especially the random multi-coloured berbers.  The carpet styles that will be popular for hte near to medium term are patterns, subtle flecks and cut and loops.

Tile

Currently tile floors are very popular.  Basically the bigger the tile the more fashionable it is.  12 and 13" tiles are not desirable to most homeowners as they give the floor a dated feel.  12x24 or 18x18 and larger are what people want in their homes.  Certainly if tiles are cracked, there is a big problem.  Also, if grout is cracked or missing this is a sign that tiles are likely to crack soon.

 
 

Hardwood

The trend right now and for at least the next ten years is wider boards.  2" wide boards date a house back to the nineties and are not desirable.  3" boards are still in popular use but are common and not desirable by more sophisticated consumers.  Hand scraped and textured finishes will continue to be over 50% of demand for the coming years due to their low maintenance needs.  When assessing a floor's current condition, you want to look for cracks in boards, finish wear and squeaking.

Laminate Flooring

There are two types of laminate flooring installed in homes today.  Flat panel laminate consists of boards which fit together flat without any bevel.  These boards are usually wider and in most cases indicate a very cheap floor that was put in to sell a home.  Depending on the price point of a home they can be a good serviceable flooring solution.  However, once a home tops $200K, the flat panel laminate is out of place and not desired by the homeowner. 

Bevelled laminate is the other type.  It looks much better and will maintain its looks over time.  Typically these floors cost more but will be much more desired. 

It is very hard to visually determine the quality of a laminate floor.  Thickness means nothing and a lot of its performance will be dictated by the quality of the installation.