Category Archives: General

Outdoor Holiday Decorating Tips

Outdoor Holiday Decorating Tips


It is the time of year when the leaves start to turn a palate of different colors, the days get noticeably shorter, the air takes on a hint of coolness, and our minds begin to turn to the essence of the holiday season: Outdoor holiday decorations! Here are a few Outdoor Holiday Decorating Tips:

Outdoor Holiday Decorating Tips

I am not a designer, I have my preferences, but I refuse to get caught between those who prefer simple, traditional and elegant versus those with slightly more flamboyant tastes. That is entirely up to the homeowner and his neighbors. Having said this, I can now say that your taste and style will largely determine the methods, tools, and hardware you will need to get the job done. In other words, I can’t say much about the process, methods or tools for the job.

A few basic tools

It is safe to say that you will probably need a few basic tools for either type of installation. A hammer, a screwdriver, and a ladder are almost always appropriate for such work. Before you get started do remember to keep safety in the forefront of your mind.

Outdoor Holiday Decorating Tips: Safety

Before you start untangling spaghetti-like strands of Christmas lights, before you run to the hardware store for the latest in home holiday decoration technology, before you do anything else at all, think about safety! An accident this season could make your holiday a lot less happy, and a lot more costly so follow some basic safety guidelines.

Ladders

Check your ladder to make sure that it is safe! Are the rungs secure, are the legs even, is it long enough for the task at hand, did you gain an extra 30 pounds during last years holidays that make the ladder unsafe for your new weight? If not, don’t move forward until it is properly repaired, or a new one of the right dimensions and weight class purchased.

Before you set your ladder up to climb on top of the house to put up your four times life-size Santa and sleigh scene, be sure that you know the location of any above-ground power lines, and keep the ladder clear of them! Make sure the ladder is properly extended and properly placed. Having to stretch to reach something when you are on top of a ladder could cause a holiday ending injury.

Hand tools

The same should be done for your hand tools. Make certain that you have the right tools for the job, and that they are in good repair. Don’t try to make a screwdriver do the job of a hammer, and don’t use a hammer with a loose head.

Electrical safety

It should go without saying that electricity can kill you, but not just the high energy lines coming into the house! Before you decide to splice a couple of strands of light, or a power cord together, ask yourself some questions: Will this be a potential shock hazard for children or adults? Will this be a potential fire hazard? Would it be smarter, simpler, and safer just to buy a new one? If you decide to do it anyway, make certain that you are not breaking any laws or codes, and that the power is off before slicing into something that might lite you up like a Christmas tree! Make all connections secure and according to code.

Really, just follow basic safety rules, and use common sense. You don’t want to wind up in the emergency room for the holidays.

Another method of decorating

Outdoor Holiday Decorating Tips: An Alternative to all that work!

If you lack the expertise to work with the tools and materials for your exterior holiday decorating project, or if you are not sure that you have the tools and equipment needed to perform the job safely, there is another way. Many lawn and landscape companies will install your holiday decorations for you for a small fee. It is sort of a natural fit for them. During the holiday season, there is much less lawn care work, and lawn and garden companies try to keep their crews occupied by doing this sort of work to keep things going till the grass starts growing. Such crews are normally bonded and insured. You can simply sit down with a cup of hot cider or eggnog while your home gets its magical holiday makeover.

Sweet Potato Pie Recipe: Taste The Potato!


There are so many foods we look forward to during the holiday season, and I wanted to offer my take on a Southern classic, Sweet Potato Pie. This is my favorite recipe for sweet potato pie offered to you just in time for the holiday season. I hope you like it. At the bottom of the page you will find a list of more articles on the sweet potato, including information on growing, curing, and baking them.

You will need:
1 pound of sweet potatoes from your local farmers market
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pie crust (unbaked)

Boil the sweet potatoes whole in their skins for about 45 minutes or as long as it takes to soften them up.
Remove skins. Tip: If you dip them in cold water the sweet potato skin will be easier to remove, and it will be easier on your fingers.

Homeade Sweet Potato Pie

Chop or break the sweet potatoes into a bowl.
Add the butter, and mix it in.
Stir in milk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.
Continue to mix until smooth.
Pour filling into an unbaked pie crust.*
Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until a knife poked in center is clean when removed.

*For a variation on the standard pie crust, try this:

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup melted butter
1/3 cup sugar

Mix the ingredients together and press into a pie plate.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 8 to 10 minutes.
Use in place of the standard pie crust for a special variation.

You have probably noticed that the standard nutmeg and or cinnamon that most folks use in a sweet potato or pumpkin pie are absent. Before you go and dump a bunch of spices in, at least try it. You will probably be surprised at just how delicious the pie is without them! The natural flavor of the sweet potato has subtleties that are missed when spices are added. If you simply must add something, try crushing 1/2 cup of pecans and spreading them over the top.

If you enjoy sweet potatoes, you might be interested in the following articles on this site, including my favorite way to cook them:

Growing Sweet Potato Slips

Curing And Storing Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes The Curing Process

Cooking Baked Sweet Potatoes

Storage Shed Preventive Maintenance

After you buy or build your storage building, there will still be a little work to do from time to time. There will come a time when you will need to perform maintenance and minor repairs. This section will guide you through the basic process and offer information on setting up a preventive maintenance program that will not eat all your spare time.

Whatever material your storage building is made of, it will last longer and serve you better with preventive maintenance checks and good maintenance practices. Maintenance is the life of your storage shed.

Storage shed preventive maintenance

First and foremost, prevention is the key to any good maintenance program. This should start at the very beginning of the process. Your choice of materials will set the pace for your maintenance needs in the future. Some materials are just more durable than others, but some of the less durable materials may be needed to fit some applications. Other preventive measures would include things like avoiding tool and equipment dings, dents, and damage which can compromise the integrity of the structure.

Tools for shed maintenance

Storage shed materials

It is just hard to avoid the fact that galvanized and painted steel will outlast wood or composite sidings. It is not a sales tactic, it is just the truth. It is also true that such materials will require less maintenance over the extended life of the building than their wood and composite counter parts. These are just the facts. Knowing this to be true, makes choosing material based on ease and longevity a ‘no brainer”. However, ease and longevity are not the only factors in choosing a building or the materials used to build it.

Other factors may include, appearance, price, and local restrictions. Sometimes it may be necessary to blend an additional feature such as a shed with the home and landscape, and in such cases, wood may be the best choice. Budget restraints may make wood or composite siding the initial best choice, although the additional maintenance costs over several years will probably make the steel siding a more economical choice in the long run. Home Owners Associations seem to prefer wooden structures over metal structures, so if you have a HOA where you live, you may have little choice in the matter. Whatever the reason, wood and composite sidings will require a higher level of maintenance.

Metal storage shed preventive maintenance

Maintenance for metal sheds is simple. Once a year, or more often if you like, you should perform the following inspection and follow up:

Debris

Keep the top free of debris like tree limbs. Such things can cause a build up of organic materials that can add stress to the structure. Denting or sagging could result, and water damage could be a consequence.

Cleaning

Give the building a good cleaning to remove grime. Use a mild detergent with no abrasives.

Touch up

During the cleaning process you may have noted some scratches or dings to the siding. In such cases, let the spot dry completely, and then use a little oil based paint matching your color to touch up those spots.

Level

Check the building to be sure it is level. The first indication of this will probably be sticking doors. If the doors should become “sticky” between annual inspections, check the structure with a spirit level, and adjust it as needed.

Fasteners

Tighten or replace loose or missing screws. This will help to avoid water and wind damage. check with a nut driver and tighten as needed. The addition of a small amount of silica sealer to the threads of screws that were extremely loose may help to prevent this in the future.

Wooden storage shed preventive maintenance

Wood rot occurs only in the presence of moisture. There is no such thing as dry root, If wood is dry and rotting, water was present at some point to initiate the rot, and the rotting will stop once the moisture is removed.

Knowing this, we can understand that the most significant danger to a wood or composite structure is moisture, so preventing moisture is our main objective. This simply means, that we need to keep the wooden surfaces from being penetrated by moisture by sealing them with paint or sealer and caulk. Some woods are resistant to moisture damage, but even these will benefit from proper sealing.

Once a year, your wooden or composite structure should be:

  • Inspected
  • Leveled
  • Cleaned
  • Re-sealed

This is the best preventive maintenance possible. Special attention should be paid to any openings in the structure such as doors, windows, and vents, as these are usually the primary entrance points for rain or irrigation water, and the first places to show signs of damage. Look for discoloration around the frames of the openings, and seal with caulk or weatherstrip, whichever is needed. This should be done whether it appears to be needed or not. All joints should be re-caulked, and all surfaces should get a coat of paint or sealer. Shingles should be inspected and replaced if needed. Doing this consistently will add years of life to your wooden shed.

Vinyl storage shed preventive maintenance

All of the applicable points for wood and metal sheds should be taken into account with vinyl sheds. They should be cleaned, sealed, and leveled at least once per year.