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What to Do with All Those Fall Leaves

20161108_102513bThe wind is a blowin’ and the leaves are a fallin’.  It’s that time of the year to rake those leaves OR not?  Most people rake their leaves because their neighbors do and they want to avoid the condescending glares for not doing it OR they were taught that leaves can suffocate a lawn.  For years, we have been raking and bagging leaves because when leaves pile up with wet, heavy snow, it can mean problems for the grass below due to suffocating or snow mold (a fungal disease that attacks turf). So how should fall leaves be managed?

To begin, it is no longer acceptable to send leaves off to the landfill where they take up space and generate harmful gases.  So if your town or county doesn’t offer leaf composting as part of its leaf removal program, other options need to be considered to keep the leaves out of the waste stream, appease your neighbors, and better your lawn or garden. K-State Research and Extension offers some great solutions for getting rid of fall’s abundant leaves that include mulching, composting, stockpiling, and incorporating.

If you’d rather not rake and bag, mow mulching may work for you.  The leaves are mowed and left on the turf to degrade and returned to the soil. Research at Michigan State (MSU) has shown leaf mulching to be efficient and benefit the lawn when properly done. Besides cutting down on the need for fertilizers and other chemicals, the decomposing pieces of leaves cover bare spots between turf plants where weed seeds germinate. MSU research has shown a reduction in dandelions and crabgrass  after adopting this practice for just three years.

Composting may require raking or mowing with a catcher.  The horticulturalists at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offer some great suggestions on constructing and managing compost piles.  While this option will take some time, the leaves will be reduced to wonderful organic matter usable in the garden.

Shredding and stockpiling leaves in bags or containers allow the leaves to be used as garden mulch the following spring and then tilled into the soil at the end of the season for added organic matter.

Leaves can be incorporated into the garden in the fall; Mother Nature will compost them over the winter.  To do so spread a couple inches over the garden and work into the soil.

Not all of these solutions will work for everyone, but with a little thought, we can all do our part to keep the leaves out of the waste stream, be a good neighbor, and benefit our own lawn and gardens.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Plants to avoid this summer

Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are all things that we want to avoid when spending time hiking, camping or even golfing (can you tell I have looked for a few golf balls in the woods). The first and most important part of prevention is learning to identify the plants. The attached links show what these plants look like to help you to know which ones to avoid when you are out having fun!

Here are some things to remember if you come in contact with any of these plants.

  • It is important to wash the oil off as quickly as possible with soap and water. The oil enters the skin quickly and can leave skin with an itchy red rash with bumps or blisters. Make sure that you pay attention to your fingernails as well.
  • The rash does not spread by the fluid from the blisters. Once the urushiol oil has been washed off the skin it will not spread from person to person.
  • Most people don’t react to the urushiol immediately. It can vary from 6-8 hours or it may even be days before you see the rash develop.
  • All items that have come in contact with the plant oil need to be cleaned well. The oil remains on tools, clothing, shoes and pets for a very long time. If you come in contact with those items in the future it can cause the rash to return if it was not cleaned off.
  • Keep your pets from coming in contact with these plants so the urushiol doesn’t stick to their fur which can spread to you. If you think your pet has been exposed give your pet a bath and use long rubber gloves to keep from spreading it to your arms.
  • Wash all of your clothes immediately in your washing machine. Be careful to not have the clothes touch the outside part of your washing machine or the floor. If you feel those areas may have been exposed wash with soap and water. Remember to wash sleeping bags, jewelry, gloves or anything that may have come in contact with the oil.
  • Wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when you are walking in areas that may have these plants.
  • Do NOT burn poison ivy, oak or sumac to get rid of it. The resins can be spread in the smoke and anyone breathing it could have severe reactions. See a medical professional immediately if you are having trouble breathing and you think you may have been exposed to smoke from the burning of these plants.

Being out in the woods is a fun summer activity but being aware of your surroundings and able to identify these plants is important. Teach yourselves and your kids what to look for and what to do if you are exposed.

Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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Caring for your quilts

Quilt2

Quilting is my favorite hobby, and the one that consumes most of my time. Since quilting has been popular for quite a few years now (I got started in 1980) it seems possible that you may have a quilt in your home that you need to clean.

If you have been using the quilt on a bed, it is possible that the quilt has stains from food or body oils. A quilt that has only used for display will probably have more dust and dirt from the air than stains.  Quilts can best be cleaned using one of two methods.

You can choose to vacuum a quilt or wash it with water. Vacuuming the quilt puts the least stress on the quilt.  You will want to use a small screen and a small vacuum.  The screen will be placed between the vacuum and the quilt.  The screen prevents damage to the quilt from the suction of vacuum on the quilt as you clean it.  You should vacuum both the front and the back of the quilt.  Pay special attention to the creases in the quilt and try to remove all dust from those areas.  Resist the urge to give the quilt a good shake outdoors.  The shaking can stress both the quilting stitches and the piecing stitching.  Additionally, if the fabric in the quilt is old and delicate, shaking can damage it, too.

If you must wash the quilt, you will want to check to be sure that all the fabrics in the quilt are color fast.  If the dyes run while washing, you will have more stains to clean than just oils and dirt.  Use the largest place possible to wash the quilt.  This may mean washing it in the bath tub.  Avoid over agitating the quilt and wringing it out.  Be sure to use a very mild soap, preferably use one designed for washing quilts.  Rinse the quilt well and allow it to drain as much water as possible before moving it to dry.  You can dry the quilt outside, in the shade on a sheet.  If you want to use the clothes line to dry it, make a hammock out of a large sheet and lay the quilt on it.  You may want to lay it over several different clothes lines to spread the weight of the quilt out over a larger area.  If the wet quilt hangs by itself, you may cause irreparable damage to the stitching in the quilt.

If you have more questions about cleaning your quilts, please call or email us at AnswerLine.  We would love to help you.

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Treating cast iron cookware

One of my children is interested in purchasing cast iron cookware and is wondering how to treat it. Cast iron pan

Season new cast iron by rubbing lightly with vegetable shortening. You will want to coat the interior where the food will touch. The vegetable oil will leave it sticky.

After coating, heat the pan in a 250 degree F oven for 2 hours. It may be necessary to add extra shortening to the pan. Do not let it dry out.

Let the cast iron get stone cold and wipe out with a paper towel.

Remember when you need to wash the cast iron, don’t let it soak in the water for an extended period of time or you will need to re-season.

If you find some older cast iron pieces at a garage sale that you would like to use, simply scour and scrub them with steel wool.  Then season and enjoy.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Cleaning oven racks

Dirty ovenPart Two of oven cleaning addresses how to clean oven racks and the oven window. Again, always remember to remove the oven racks before cleaning your oven.  Failing to remove the racks can cause permanent damage to them.

You are going to want to cover the oven racks with hot water. Many people put them in the bath tub to do this. Once the racks are covered with very hot water, add ½ cup powdered or liquid dishwasher detergent to the water. Swish around until the detergent is dissolved. Let soak 4 hours or overnight. Rinse, dry, and replace in your clean oven!

Enjoy clean oven racks without all the hard work.

Of course, no oven is clean without a little attention to the window.  Harsh cleaners or scrubbing pads can damage the surface of the window.  You may want to try warm sudsy water  or a solution of vinegar and water to clean the oven window.

It won’t take long and your oven will be sparkling like new.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Oven Cleaning

Dirty oven      clean oven

Tis the season for Spring cleaning! For many of us that includes the oven. It is suggested to clean your oven monthly and wipe down the oven door weekly. Dirty ovens are less efficient at reaching temperatures and crusty buildup can impact the taste of food.

AnswerLine’s recommended way to clean an electric oven is to preheat the oven for 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and place a bowl of boiling water on the bottom shelf and a bowl of ammonia (about ½ cup ) on the top shelf. Close the oven door and let set overnight. Wipe down and scrub with a nonabrasive scrubber if necessary the next day. This procedure is not recommended for gas ovens with pilot lights for safety reasons. For gas ovens place a bowl of water in the oven and turn the oven on high for 20 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow the steam to loosen dried on food and grease overnight.

If spills do happen, sprinkle salt on the spills when warm and scrub with 3 tablespoons washing soda (which can be purchased at the grocery store) mixed into 1 quart warm water.

The next blog will address the recommended way to clean oven racks.

Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Spring cleaning for glassware

If you are “thinking spring” and cleaning in your kitchen, here are some tips for cleaning glass items.

If the sparkle is gone, warm up two cups of white vinegar in the microwave for about two minutes. Pour into a bowl large enough to place at least two of your cloudy glasses. Soak for about three minutes. Rotate the glasses to ensure all areas have been cleaned. Rinse and dry.

If spots remain, scrub with a damp cloth dipped in baking soda. This will not scratch the glasses but may remove stubborn spots. White paste toothpaste will also work to scour the glasses, scratch free.

Vases or narrow bottles can be difficult to clean. Follow these directions for cleaning your vase.vase Fill the vase half full with really warm water. Add a squirt of dish soap and two tablespoons of ammonia. Next, add ½ cup of uncooked rice. Swirl the vase to allow the rice to scrub the area you cannot reach. Let the vase rest for a few minutes and swirl again. When you have removed the stains, rinse well with warm water. Set the vase upside down to dry.

If you find you have wax covered candle holders, soak them in a sink of hot water. Next peel or gently scrape off the softened wax. You can scrub with a terry cloth dish cloth to remove the remaining wax. Then wash in hot, sudsy dish water and dry.

I hope that these tips will help refresh some special glassware that you need to clean.

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Tips for buying (or selling) at a garage sale

It’s that time of year again; garage sale signs are springing up everywhere. You may also be thinking of holding a sale of your own.  Here are some things to consider when buying, or selling at a sale.

  • Beware of bike helmets. They are designed to be discarded after they have been in an accident. It may be hard to tell if this particular helmet was used in a crash.
  • Used car seats for a baby; these too may have been through a crash or they may be outdated. Safety for your child is nothing to short cut.
  • Used cribs can also be a danger to your child or grandchild. Know what the current standards are for a safe crib.
  • Personal items that hug the body may not be a good purchase. It is hard to know, even with hot water washes, that the item is clean.
  • Mattresses are also a questionable purchase. Who wants to buy bed bugs or some other problem?
  • Electronics like TVs, computers, and tablets. It is hard to know, just by looking, how much longer these items will last. Buy with caution.
  • Reconsider buying old, worn dishes or pans. Cast iron can be rejuvenated but some other surfaces may not be safe for cooking. Of course, you can always use them decoratively out in the garden.
  • Used makeup should be avoided. There can be bacteria growing in the old makeup that will make you sick.
  • Beware of stuffed animals. You may not be able to clean them sufficiently for use by small children.

Hard surface toys can be washed in the dishwasher or sanitized by washing and dipping into a sanitizing solution.

Sanitizing solution:  Use 1 Tablespoon of bleach in a gallon of cool water or use ¾ teaspoon of bleach in a quart of cool water.

Follow these tips to safely buy (or sell) at a garage sale near you.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Carpet Cleaning

This time of year callers are often preparing their homes for graduations, first communions, carpet stainand wedding showers. We often get calls about removing spots from carpeting. The resource we use at AnswerLine for carpet cleaning is the Carpet and Institute’s Spot Solver.

Their experts advise creating a schedule to vacuum you carpets. If the soil is removed from the surface before it is crushed into the carpet it is much easier to remove.  It is best to vacuum slowly; covering an area about four times.  This helps remove dust, pollen, and pet dander, too.  It is best to vacuum at least once a week, but higher traffic areas may need to be vacuumed more often.  If you have a pet or children that track in a lot of dirt, you may want to vacuum daily.  You should plan to vacuum medium traffic areas at least twice a week.

The Carpet and Rug Institute experts also recommend that you treat stains promptly. Even though most carpet sold today is stain resistant, carpet spills and stains happen to all of us. Act quickly when a stain happens.  Scoop or blot up the staining material.  Remember not to scrub as that can cause damage to carpet fibers.  Treat the stain with the solution recommended by the Carpet and Rug Institute.  If you don’t have any of those solutions, remember that plain water is often effective.

In spite of your best efforts there are some spots you may not be able to remove. In that case, you may want to call in a professional.  The Carpet and Rug Institute suggests having the carpets in your home cleaned professionally every 12 to 18 months.  You may want to get bids from several cleaning services.  A good carpet cleaning should include vacuuming, pre-spraying, and spot removal.

These tips should help you keep your carpeting looking and feeling like new.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Keep Bacteria Out Of Your Kitchen

Woman cleaning kitchen

There are several of us at the office that are suffering from colds right now. As we are trying to keep from exposing all of our staff it got me thinking that the spread of viruses and bacteria that cause colds is passed on in the same way that foodborne illnesses are spread – from hand to hand or from hand to food contact.  We are sanitizing our doorknobs, computer keyboards, and phones but there are things at home that we need to disinfect to keep from passing foodborne illnesses on to our family.  An inexpensive sanitizing solution that you can use at the office or for toys, eating utensils, dishes, dining tables, and kitchen countertops at home is to put in a 1 quart spray bottle, 1 teaspoon bleach with 1 quart of water.  If you have concentrated bleach use ¾ teaspoon per quart of water.  Use for 1-2 days then make a new batch.

Let’s look at some areas in the kitchen that we need to pay particular attention to when talking about sanitizing.

  • Cutting boards. Make sure that you are cleaning your cutting boards after each use. Have two separate cutting boards. One for meat and another for fruits and vegetables. When cutting boards get deep knife marks it is time to replace them since bacteria can harbor in those grooves. After cleaning they can be sprayed with the sanitizing solution and allowed to dry.
  • Can openers. These need to be cleaned each time you use them. Then wiped with the sanitizing solution and allowed to air dry.
  • Sinks. Before washing your dishes wipe the sink with hot soapy water and use the sanitizing solution. After spraying the sanitizing solution allow it to work for 10 minutes before you use the sink.
  • Countertops. Think of all of the items that are set on the countertop. Grocery bags that have been sitting in your trunk, the mail, newspapers, etc. Even if a countertop looks clean before you cook, wash and sanitize it. If the countertop has not been cleaned you don’t want to set your rubber scrapers or other utensils on it for fear of transferring bacteria into your food.
  • Dishcloths and towels. Use a clean dishcloth daily. If you wipe up a spill then allow it to dry and put it in the laundry and get out a clean dishcloth. Clean all dish towels and cloths in hot water. If you have scrubbing utensils they should be put in the dishwasher every time that you run it. Most dishwashers have a sanitizing cycle but if you don’t have a dishwasher use your sanitizing solution and allow them to soak for 10 minutes.
  • Garbage disposal rubber splash guard. Bacteria can form on inside folds and the underside of the splash guard. A thorough cleaning on both the top and the bottom is important. Use a brush that can reach in all parts and spray with the sanitizer spray and let it dry after it is clean.
  • Refrigerators. Remember that spills in the refrigerator should be cleaned up immediately. Make sure that you look at your food items regularly and get rid of the items that are past time to safely eat. Don’t allow food to mold or decay.

Be diligent in keeping bacteria away! Remember these tips to keep your family safe.

Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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