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posted: 10/12/2012 5:18 AM

Follow these tips to safely get your yard ready for winter

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Well, it's that time of year again -- time to clean up the yard at the end of the season. Don't let "fall" mean that you fall off your ladder. Follow some of our favorite tips for a faster and safer fall-free cleanup.

Make sure you are ready for the task. Wear a long-sleeve shirt, pants and good, sturdy shoes or boots. Don't forget the gloves and safety glasses. Add a hat to protect your head, too.

The basic tools you will need are a rake, broom, pruning saw, hand pruners, trash bags and trash can or box. You might need a ladder, too, but don't forget to have a spotter handy when using it. Add a garden hose, blower and chipper/shredder if you have access to one, and a cellphone for safety's sake.

Start at the top and work down. If you have trees to trim, start there and call for help if you need it. Don't be a hero and risk injury doing this.

Gutters are next. (And after you have cleaned them out, you may decide to go back and do a little more trimming of those overhanging tree limbs.) Another way to avoid this task is to install some type of gutter guards and downspout grilles. The latter is the least expensive, and is easy to do, too.

Change out light bulbs in outdoor fixtures. Better now than when it's 30 below, right? Clean the fixtures as well, and tighten up any loose screws. If your lights are on timers, make sure they are set properly. Motion or dusk-to-dawn sensors are a great add-on to lights and make turning them off and on a thing of the past.

Take care of your pruning chores. Make sure you have a collection bag or chipper/shredder handy to take care of the limbs.

Rake up leaves and bag them for proper disposal. Maybe you can start a compost pile this year.

Clean and lubricate your yard tools, and store them in a place that is safe and out of the way until springtime.

If you take the time to do these chores now, then you can sit back and enjoy football, hunting, family time and all of the other indoor activities this fall!

Save milk jugs

You can turn an empty milk jug into a scoop for just about anything. With the jug standing upright, cut down from the top to the bottom, slicing off the handle and straight down the jug from there. You'll end up with a super scoop. Depending on what size and shape the jug is, you can use it for scooping a variety of shop and home materials.

Hang up bikes

Storing sports equipment in a garage just makes sense. You want to be able to get to it when you need it, but you don't want it in the middle of your family room. There are lots of smart ways to store sports equipment, and most items don't take up very much room. Bicycles might be the exception, though. They do require a little more space than the average set of golf clubs or tennis rackets and balls. One simple way to store a bike is right on your garage wall. Use a couple of closet shelf brackets with hooks for rods on them. Place these up high on the wall, side by side, so that the frame of the bike sits on the rod hooks. If you want, you even can add a shelf to the shelf bracket and store bike helmets on it.

Super hints

• Do you have trouble pulling the vacuum cleaner attachments off your hose or the hose sections apart? If you lubricate the fittings with a little WD-40, the sections and fittings will fit together and pull apart a lot easier. It's easy to do and works great.

• Stained glass is beautiful, but, unless it's custom-made (expensive), it's not going to fit every window, and it's not very energy-efficient if it does. You can mount a stained-glass panel in your window, though. It just needs to be a little smaller than the existing windows. Put Super Glue around the edges of the stained-glass panel and then glue it right to your window. It'll hold pretty well, in most cases. It has for me, for more than three years now!

• It's about time to restock that woodpile if you have a fireplace. Remember, don't stack the wood right next to your house, or you might be harboring all kinds of critters this winter. Their next stop will be your house!

Q. Our patio cover is made of canvas. It has become dirty throughout the years, and I would like to be able to clean it. How do you do this?

A. Use a mild soap to clean it. You should test it on the back or underside to make sure it doesn't remove any of the color. Use a scrub brush and the mild soap to clean both sides of the awning, and then rinse it clean. Let it dry, then apply a fabric waterproofer to the awning to keep it from absorbing water and stains in the future. If you have bad stains, check with a local awning dealer. It might have some of the cleaners that are made just for awnings, which work pretty well, too.

Q. My shower door is glass and has a rubber seal at the bottom. This piece of rubber has started to split. I'm not sure what to replace it with or how to fix it. Got any ideas?

A. Some of these strips are slid into the bottom of the door; others are screwed in. See if you can determine which type you have, and shop your hardware store for a replacement. If you can't find one, you should try to determine the manufacturer of the door and give it a call, or go to the website and search for a replacement.

Q. I have fence problems. It seems like I am having to replace several of my fence's pickets every year. The lightweight wood just warps, bends and starts to split on a regular basis. What can I do to make the fence last longer?

A. Use a power sprayer to clean the fence. Apply a stain or water repellent to help protect the wood from moisture damage. You can use a paint sprayer for this part of the project. This should be done once a year, or as soon as the old finish starts to fail. If you keep up with this basic maintenance, you will greatly decrease the need for picket replacements.

Reader tips

• My wife wanted to replace all of our ceiling fixtures because they were shiny brass and not the dark-brown metal that she likes so much. I bought some spray paint of the right color and painted all of the fixtures. They look fantastic. I did spend a lot of time masking and detailing, but I painted them all, and they really look neat. I only spent about $10 doing it, too!

• Here's a neat trick for your readers to try. In an effort to keep up with my keys better, I wanted to put an address label on them. I wasn't thinking about thieves' easy access to my home with this information. But my brother came up with a better idea: He put one of his address labels on my keys, and one of my address labels on his keys. That way, if either of us loses them, we might get each other's keys back, without the risk of the wrong person breaking into one of our homes.

• My wife made me take down the old track lights in the family room. She said they dated the house, but I always liked them. I put them up in the garage. Now I have light in the garage just where I need it. I even have a couple of spotlights on my workbench. It works quite well, and I consider it an upgrade to my work space. One wife's trash is another man's treasure!

• Here's my tip for flat tires along a highway: I always carry a scrap of two-by-six in my trunk to set the jack on if I have to change a flat on muddy ground. I do this because one time I had to change a flat along the side of the road, and it had just rained. I had to hunt around in the field for a flat surface to put the jack on so I could jack up the car. I finally found something to use, but it took a while and delayed my arrival.

• When you paint, the newer paints don't have that horrible odor like they used to, but I still think they smell bad. I mixed a little bit of clove oil into my paint while mixing it. The room smells great. The paint looks good, and the room smells fresh and clean. I guess you also can use other essential oils, like lavender or orange oil. It doesn't seem to affect the paint, either. I just hope the smell lasts for a long while.


• When you need to cut a sheet of plywood or drywall, you need some help. The Rockwell JawHorse Sheetmaster allows you to work, hands-free, on your own. It takes the place of a workbench and eliminates the need for extra helpers. You can set up the Sheetmaster quickly and easily, move it into position, then lock it down. The JawHorse Sheetmaster has a clamping system that's controlled by a foot pedal. It can hold materials up to 49 inches wide and up to 600 pounds. It's made of heavy-gauge, powder-coated steel but weighs only 52.9 pounds. It also can be used to bend and straighten metal as well as for other heavy-duty work. To find out more, go to

• Composting has never been easier than with the new Eco Bin Composter from Fiskars. The bin is a spring-loaded design that stores in less space but is easy to open and set up. The walls are mesh to allow air in, and it has a windproof lid and anchoring stakes to keep the composter in place. The bottom is open, allowing for maximum biological processes, and it can hold up to 75 gallons of compost. Check it out at

• Write to Al and Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit the Carrells' website at

2012, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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