Happy Flag Day!
We are currently doing some landscaping work at our house and are contemplating adding a flag pole and U.S. flag into our landscaping. We want to do it correctly so have been researching any laws or rules for displaying a flag. There is a U.S. Flag Code that was published on June 14, 1923 and adopted by Congress in 1942. It is a set of rules – not law. It is purely advisory but a very good guide.
The flag should always be treated with respect and honor. If flags are wrinkled, faded or damaged they should not be displayed. Flags should not touch the ground or any items below them such as a chair or table when they are being displayed. Most flags today are made of nylon but if the flag is not made from all-weather fabric it should not be displayed on days when there is inclement weather.
Flags are customarily flown from sunrise to sunset. They can be displayed 24 hours a day however if they are properly illuminated at night.
If your flag becomes damaged or worn out and is no longer fitting for display you should destroy it in a dignified manner. Typically flags are destroyed by burning. There are some organizations that offer planed flag retirement ceremonies. The American Legion and the U.S. Scouting Service Project are two organizations to check with to see what they offer for properly destroying flags.
There are many instances when the flag is flown at half-staff. One of those instances is on Memorial Day when it is customary to fly the flag at half-staff until noon.
Although Flag Day is not an Official Federal Holiday it is nice to take a moment and honor our American Flag today.
As much as we try to be healthy cooks and eaters, a lot of fats, oils, and grease (FOG) are used at Holiday time. Leftover fats, oils, and grease are not to be poured down the drain, through the dishwasher or garbage disposal, or toilet. Once FOG cools, it will solidify and begin blocking the drain. It slowly begins to coat the inside of pipes which will restrict water flow and cause a back-up resulting in inconvenience and potential costs to the homeowner which always seems to happen at the most inopportune time.
The safe way to dispose of FOG is to put it in your garbage or compost. There are a few things you can and should do before disposing of it. Number one is to remove excess FOG from dishes and pans before washing in either the sink or dishwasher. You can do this by using paper towels or even coffee filters. Throw the used paper towels or coffee filters away in your regular garbage.
If you have cooked something that needs to have the FOG drained from it (bacon, ground beef, etc), collect the grease in a container. An aluminum foil lined bowl works great for this. Once the grease is cool you can squeeze the foil closed and dispose of the package in your regular garbage.
Are you planning to deep fry a turkey for the Holidays? If so, remember to dispose of the cooled used oil after cooking. It is not safe to leave the oil in the fryer as it attracts pests and may turn rancid.
There are chemicals on the market that claim to dissolve grease. In most instances those chemicals only move the problem further down the line. Many of those chemicals are also not allowed by city ordinances.
With a little effort on all of our parts we can avoid expensive plumbing mistakes by safely disposing of fats, oils, and grease.
I recently fractured my ankle on both sides. I was able to avoid surgery by not putting any weight on it for six weeks but getting around the house proved to be a bit challenging. I was not very good, nor did I feel very stable, using crutches so I opted for a transport chair some friends were kind enough to loan us. Luckily I am only dealing with this for a few weeks but it made me wonder about myself aging and the aging population in general and how to best accommodate being able to live independently in our own homes. As I did some research on it I found a good article from South Dakota State University Extension that addresses retrofitting our homes for lifelong independence. They have included a chart comparing costs of Nursing Homes and Assisted Living facilities versus retrofitting and staying in your own home. I think the information is timely and worth considering as I look down the road at not only staying in my own home but for other family members as well.
The leaves on the trees are turning beautiful colors outside our windows reminding us that fall is here and winter is on its way! Is your home ready for winter? Doing some simple tasks now can reduce your utility bills and keep problems away.
- Clean out your gutters. The leaves and debris can cause water to back up. In the fall that could cause water to overflow and instead of being diverted away from your house it could cause basement water problems. In the winter frozen water from thawing snow can cause ice dams that can cause moisture damage to your roof and interior ceiling. Running water through the gutter will also show if there are leaks that need to be fixed.
- Have your furnace checked. Regular maintenance of both your air conditioning and furnace will keep them running well. There is nothing worse than waking up on a cold morning and not having the furnace working! Changing the furnace filter regularly will help with utility costs since air does not circulate well through dirty filters.
- Check the weather stripping on doors and windows. Sealing gaps around doors and windows will keep cold air out and warm air in.
- If you have a wood burning fireplace be sure and have the chimney inspected. Regular cleaning can keep soot or creosol from depositing inside the chimney. Regular cleaning reduces the risk of a chimney fire.
- Change the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. This should be done once a year. Test the detectors monthly to make sure they are working properly.
- Since the days are shorter replace light bulbs with LED or CFL lights. These ENERGY STAR bulbs last longer and save you a lot of money on your electric bills. When you are decorating for the holidays look for LED Christmas lights.
- Make sure you drain your outdoor hoses and store them in the garage for the winter. Drain any irrigation system and rain barrels that you have been using this summer. Allowing water to freeze can cause damage that you will find in the spring.
Many of these items can be done without hiring a professional. By spending some time in the fall you will enjoy the energy saving and the peace of mind knowing you are ready for the snow to fly!
This time of year callers are often preparing their homes for graduations, first communions, and 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.
Growing up in northwest Iowa in the 1970’s and 80’s I experienced many long winters in a big drafty farmhouse. I remember fighting with my siblings over who got to stand on the heat grates to warm up and bundling up in the cold upstairs at bedtime. Homes today are much better insulated and energy efficient but there are still steps you can take with your residence to save energy costs and keep your family warm and safe this winter. Even though the cold has already hit, it’s never too late to take these steps to prepare for winter.
Here are some great tips from the folks at Ready.gov:
- Insulate walls and attics
- Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows.
- Install storm windows or cover windows with plastic from the inside.
- Insulate any water lines that run along outer walls. This will make water less likely to freeze.
- Service snow-removal equipment.
- Have chimney and flue inspected.
- Install easy-to-read outdoor thermometer.
- Repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on your home or other structure during a storm.
For more in depth information on preparing your home, car, and more for the winter, visit the Ready.gov information pages.
Here are some additional resources for keeping your family safe and warm during the long Midwest winter:
contributed by Jill Jensen, former AnswerLine Specialist
It seems really early in the year to be thinking about Box Elder Bugs but this is the time of year to work at preventing an infestation next fall. Use a tube of calking to seal up sites where the bugs can enter the house. Check cracks in the foundation or house siding and gaps around the windows or doors. It may seem like a big job, but with the arrival of nice weather you can break the job down into smaller parts. Perhaps do one side of the house every week this month.
Later in the year, you can spray massing box elder bugs with Sevin, Diazinon, or Orthene. You can also make a spray of soapy water using 5 tablespoons of liquid detergent per gallon of water. This is a very effective spray but does not have any residual effect.
Take a little time this summer to slow or eliminate the entry of Box Elder Bugs into your home.
Mold is present everywhere including both indoors and outside. Most times molds that grow on the outside of your house don’t pose health problems but it can definitely be an eye sore! Mold can appear as discoloration or darkening on siding, decks and roofs.
Molds grow on surfaces usually where it is dark or shady, when temperatures are warm (although it can happen anywhere above freezing to nearly 100 degrees) and where there is a moisture source including humidity in the air. Proper ventilation around the house is important. If you have trees and plants that are growing close to the house it can provide an environment for mold to grow especially if it is on the north side of the house where there isn’t much sunlight. Trimming the plants and keeping the surfaces of your house clean will keep the outside of your house mold and mildew free.
It is a good idea to wash your siding every year. If you have a soft brush that attaches to the hose it will work well. If you need more than water and a brush you can use 1/3 cup mild household cleaner like TSP (trisodium phosphate) in a gallon of water. If you need something stronger you can increase the cleaner to 2/3 cup and add 1/3 cup laundry detergent. Always remember to rinse the siding after washing it.
If you have mold or mildew growing on the siding you can add 1 quart of bleach to the cleaning solution listed above. Anytime you are adding bleach to clean you need to make sure that the cleaner you are using doesn’t contain ammonia. Again rinse well after using this cleaner.
If there are plants located near where you are cleaning you need to protect them by covering them with plastic. Be sure and rinse off any bleach solution right away if it comes in contact with your plants.
By providing regular cleaning and removing mold when it starts to grow you can prolong the life of your siding and keep your house looking nice.
At our house, cabin fever generally sets in about mid-March. I get really tired of looking at snow and driving in snow and staying inside to stay warm. One of the ways that I have found to distract myself is cleaning. I like to take a project that I’ve been putting off and tackle it over a weekend. This weekend I’m going to do some deep cleaning of the tile in my bathrooms.
Glazed tile is easy to clean. Just wash with a damp sponge and an all-purpose cleaner that has some ammonia as one of the ingredients. If you have a spot that requires heavy-duty cleaning use a non-abrasive scouring agent like liquid Ajax, Comet, or Soft Scrub. You can also use a paste made of baking soda on a nylon scouring pad. Remember to rinse with clear water.
Unglazed tiles can be cleaned the same way as glazed tiles. Often unglazed tile s require more aggressive cleaning techniques if the surface is rough or porous. Mold and mildew are not nearly as much of a problem in a kitchen as they are in a damp bathroom. The rough surface will still collect dirt and stains, however. If the above methods don’t work for cleaning the tile, try spreading a paste of scouring powder and water over the tile and allow it to stand for about five minutes. Then scrub the surface with a stiff bristle brush, rinse with clear water and dry. If the tiles still don’t come clean, a poultice-cleaning method can be used. The Ceramic Tile Institute recommends the following procedure: Coat the tile with an undiluted neutral soap (Fels Naptha). Allow to stand and dry and dry for several hours. Then mix some more with warm water and wet down the tile rub. Rub the tile with a sponge and copious amount of water to remove all the soap; then towel dry.
If the grout looks dirty, clean it with a brush and an all-purpose cleaner or tub, tile and sink cleaner. For badly stained or mildewed grout, use a mildew stain remover or a solution of 3/4 cup of chlorine bleach in one gallon of water. Carefully apply the bleach solution, using a brush. Rinse thoroughly
If I get busy this weekend, I’ll have a nice clean bathroom to enjoy for the rest of the winter. Happy cleaning.
In the winter our houses tend to dry out causing static electricity, dry nose, throat and skin problems. One way to add moisture to our homes is to use a humidifying device. These machines can be cool mist, steam or evaporative (a fan blows air through a moistened absorbent material like a belt or filter). These will add moisture back into the home if it is dry but care must be taken to avoid excessive moisture which can lead to bacterial growth if the machines are not maintained and cleaned regularly.
Here are some tips to keep in mind if you are using a humidifier in your home:
- Use distilled or demineralized water in your machines to reduce hard water deposits. Tap water often contains more minerals which can be released in the mist. If the particles are fine enough they can be breathed in which could cause health problems depending on what the type and amount of minerals are.
- Try to change the water in your humidifier daily. By emptying the tank and wiping it dry it will keep any film and scum from developing in your machine and will reduce the growth of microorganisms. If the tank is not removable use the manufacturer’s instruction to keep the machine clean.
- If you are using a steam vaporizer keep it out of the reach of children. The steam can cause burns if anyone comes in direct contact with it.
- Make sure that the humidity in your house doesn’t go beyond 50 percent. If so moisture can build up on windows and walls and can cause mold growth. A tool called a hygrometer can measure the humidity level in your house. They are usually found at your local hardware store.
- Follow the manufacturer’s directions on what cleaning products to use. If bleach or other products are used, the tanks will need to be rinsed well before using so that those strong chemicals smells are not released into the air in your house.
- At the end of the season make sure that all of the parts are cleaned and dry before putting it away. Also clean it thoroughly before bringing it out to use again the next winter.
Remember breathing dirty air can cause problems ranging from flu-like symptoms to infections. If you suffer from allergies or asthma the problem can be even worse. By keeping your humidifiers clean and using them correctly you can make your house comfortable and safe.