The rise of the basement: Top tips for a better space

(BPT) – With fewer homes for sale and good returns on the remodeling investment, more homeowners are reclaiming their lower levels and remodeling their basements.

Basements are coming out of hiding these days. And they’re doing it in style, with before-and-after transformations featured everywhere from HGTV to Pinterest and YouTube.

What’s driving this trend? A tight housing market, for one thing. With houses at a premium – and a proliferation of DIY how-to’s – more homeowners are inspired to reclaim their unused space and expand their living area.

A smart, affordable upgrade

Updating your lower level is a sound investment in your home. Remodeling magazine’s 2016 Cost vs. Value Report put the average basement remodel at $61,303, with a 70.3 percent payback – a far better investment return than adding a bathroom or garage.

Props for your property value

Depending on local regulations, the additional space can often be added to your home’s total square footage, making your market listing more appealing to buyers and potentially increasing your property value.

To recoup the most from your remodeling efforts, make sure your design and decorating choices are attractive and functional – not too quirky or customized.

Look up, look down: Banish water all around

Before you begin making decorating choices, tackle any needed repairs, including waterproofing your lower level. It’s a good idea to seal your walls and floors first, and important enough to hire a professional if you’re short on time.

And since below-grade spaces are usually cool, humid and prone to water damage, consider investing in a good dehumidifier and choosing moisture-resistant products.

Elevate your ceiling style

Ugly or damaged ceilings can ruin the look of your newly updated basement space, so take steps to repair or replace your ceiling. Plaster any cracks and replace yellowing tiles.

If you’re updating the ceiling, look for products from companies like Armstrong Ceilings that are specially treated to resist the growth of mold and mildew. From there, the sky – or the ceiling – is the limit. Savvy design choices, like coffered ceilings, or wood planks add style and the results are easier to achieve than most people think.

Stuck with an older, 2-foot x 4-foot dropped ceiling grid? There’s no need to suffer without style. Homeowners can take advantage of today’s beautiful new 2-foot x 2-foot ceiling tiles by adding 2-foot cross tees to their existing grid systems.

Flooring: Think warm and dry

Make sure your flooring choices stand up to moisture, too. Patch any cracks in the concrete floor and consider adding a subfloor if the surface slopes or is uneven.

Many homeowners gravitate to the warmth and soundproofing effect of carpeting in basements. Low-pile or Berber carpets resist wear and are inexpensive options. A moisture-barrier pad between the carpet pad and the carpet adds another level of water resistance and reassurance.

Now is a great time to finish your basement. You’ll enjoy the added living space now, and likely realize a healthy return on your investment in the future.

Talking turkey: It's platter season

(BPT) – What’s your idea of the perfect Thanksgiving meal? A big family buffet, or perhaps an intimate evening with a few close friends? Thanksgiving brings us together from near and far for all sorts of fun-filled traditions that are uniquely our own. And while those traditions may vary somewhat as families grow and our lives change over time, there’s one constant at the heart of Thanksgiving entertaining – the beloved turkey platter.

‘Turkey platters really are the Christmas tree of Thanksgiving,’ says Keith Winkler, product marketing manager at dinnerware giant Replacements, Ltd. ‘When you talk about Thanksgiving, I think most Americans picture that iconic Norman Rockwell painting with the mother serving the perfect turkey on a huge platter. Even though that image has been reinterpreted in so many ways as times have changed, the platter has always remained the centerpiece of the gathering, even for those who by-pass the bird to serve another main course for their Thanksgiving meal.’

Winkler notes there’s also a strong sentimental attachment to this seasonal favorite. Turkey platters often become heirloom pieces, handed down in many families, making the platter even more special.

Turkey dinnerware history 101

The history behind Turkey patterns and ultimately the iconic platter is literally as old as the holiday itself.

When Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving official back in 1863, English potters seized the opportunity to target the growing American market by producing turkey-themed dinner plates and platters. These ingenious designers generally took an existing design and replaced the center with a turkey motif to create those first Thanksgiving patterns. Manufacturers such as Spode, Mason’s and Wood & Sons used their colorful transferware patterns to start a new holiday tradition, which became an instant hit.

In fact, Replacements’ most popular Thanksgiving pattern, His Majesty by Johnson Brothers, started as an accent plate in the company’s Friendly Village pattern. The English manufacturer received so much demand for this particular motif that the company turned the proud Tom Turkey-adorned plate into its own pattern.

The great platter hunt

Designers say you don’t have to buy entire set of turkey-themed dinnerware to find the perfect platter. Replacements’ Julie Robbins notes you can find platters that blend well with any pattern, from the very old to the very new.

‘Turkey platters aren’t necessarily bird-themed; you’ll find them in designs ranging from florals to even scenic vistas,’ Robbins says. ‘Think who is going to be at your table, what you’re serving and find a platter that speaks to you. If you’re serving turkey, it doesn’t matter whether you’re carving your bird in the kitchen or on the table, just make sure it’s large enough to accommodate your guests. So many people make the mistake of trying to put a large turkey on a 12-inch platter and quite frankly, that is just too small and it’s not going to work. This is a special piece, not an everyday platter.’

Robbins adds she’s seen people do wonderful things with a small turkey, such as placing vegetables around the bird to fill out the larger platter and complete the look. Turkey platters aren’t only fun, many are also functional. Lenox and several other manufacturers produce turkey-shaped platters and other autumn themed serving pieces in alternative metal serveware. This is a special alloy that when heated or chilled maintains temperature to keep foods warm or cold.

Gobble up this season’s table top trends

Many dinnerware companies are producing Thanksgiving or turkey-themed accent plates and platters to mix and match with everyday dinnerware in colors and motifs to fit all tastes and lifestyles, from the very traditional to a more modern aesthetic. And if Tom Turkey isn’t the right design element for your table, Robbins says you can still create a seasonal feel, minus the bird.

‘You can use fall leaf or even woodland patterns to create a classic Thanksgiving table without going with a turkey motif. Even beautiful classic fruit patterns give your table that cornucopia or horn of plenty flair.’

Not sure where to start? Find a list of Replacements’ most popular fall and Thanksgiving patterns on the company’s website,

Feed backyard birds this season for the greater, global good

(BPT) – When you fill your bird feeders and put fresh water in the birdbath this season, you’ll definitely be giving your feathered friends a helping hand. But you could also be serving the greater good!

Take note of the birds that visit your yard, and you’ll be ready to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), a four-day annual event during which thousands of people around the world record information about the species of birds they see. The information backyard bird-watchers gather assists scientists in better understanding the movement of species around the globe, how well different species are — or aren’t — doing and how factors like climate change are affecting bird populations everywhere.

And when the bird count is over, you’ll still enjoy a yard filled with the pleasing colors and sounds of wild birds.

Birds are important

“We enjoy birdwatching and feeding birds because they brighten our backyards and entertain us with their antics, especially during long winters,” says Richard Cole, co-founder of Cole’s Wild Bird Products. “But birds also play an important role in maintaining environmental balance around the world. They pollinate plants, scatter seeds so new plants can grow, help control insect populations and recycle nutrients back into the soil. It’s critical for us to have a greater understanding of how bird species are doing around the world, and to do our part to help take care of them.”

Bird populations are so diverse, large and widespread that it would be virtually impossible for scientists to gather all the data they need without help from backyard bird enthusiasts who participate in the GBBC. The information gathered help scientists identify species whose numbers are decreasing or increasing, changes in range or migratory patterns and more. Fluctuations in bird populations are often the earliest signs of greater environmental changes.

What you can do

Founded in 1998, and co-sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society and Bird Studies Canada, the next Great Backyard Bird Count will be Feb. 17-20, 2017. You can start preparing to participate by taking steps now to make your own backyard an oasis for birds.

* Start by offering a variety of feeders. Different species prefer different styles of feeders. Tube feeders are versatile and appeal to a wide range of bird species. They can also handle large (think sunflower) or small seeds (like petite mixes) equally well. Some birds prefer to cling to feeders while dining, rather than perch, so use a versatile Mesh feeder; or try a Bowl feeder, perfect for serving suet in kibble form, dried mealworms and fresh fruit. You can find a variety of feeders from Cole’s. Be sure to keep all feeders clean and in good condition to help prevent disease and injury.

* Serve a variety of birdfeed. In winter, seeds with a high fat or oil content are best for birds, so offer black oil sunflower seeds, niger, raw peanuts and suet. To attract the greatest variety of birds, try Cole’s Blue Ribbon Blend, which incorporates black oil sunflower seeds, sunflower meats, white proso millet and cracked corn. Special Feeder is a high-energy blend that also attracts large numbers of birds, with the perfect mixture of black oil sunflower, sunflower meats, black stripe, raw peanuts, safflower and pecans. Birds also need (and love) suet, Cole’s offers no-melt suet cakes, specialty suets and a seed and suet mix, Nutberry Suet, to help ensure birds get the fat stores they need to weather winter.

* Fill every feeder with quality food. Birds won’t be satisfied with birdfeed that contains cheap fillers, and they won’t get the nutrition they need. Think of it as the difference between serving your family fresh veggies instead of fast food. Serve birdfeed that contains quality ingredients and is free of chemicals or other toxins that could be harmful to birds. Cole’s formulates all its feed to attract birds, and uses only natural, top-quality seeds. Their products contain no fillers, preservatives, mineral oils or pesticides.

Be sure to also offer birds plenty of fresh water; it can be very difficult for them to find unfrozen water sources in winter.

By feeding backyard birds and participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count, you can be counted on to help protect the wellbeing of wild bird populations. What’s more, the work you do prepping your yard for the count will benefit you — and your feathered friends — throughout the year. For more information about birdfeed and how to attract birds to your yard, visit

Celebrate 100 years of majesty with a visit to a national park

(BPT) – It has been 100 years since an important American institution was born. On August 25, 1916, the National Park Service was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson and was established as a new federal bureau to oversee the country’s national parks and monuments.

Since then, the national park system has grown to encompass more than 400 areas covering more than 84 million acres in every state. With that act, grand sweeps of mountains, canyons, forests, islands and seashores were preserved and made accessible to people of all ages and abilities. Whether you are looking for back-country skiing down a mountain or just a scenic afternoon drive, our national park system has plenty of resources and infrastructure to make a visit enjoyable and memorable to just about anyone.

It was John Muir, a naturalist and early parks advocate who said it best: ‘Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.’

No matter where you live, there’s a good chance one of these mesmerizing landscapes or historical monuments is just a quick road trip away. However, while millions will visit these majestic spots each year, few realize a major challenge faces national parks across the country – waste. The National Park Service manages more than 100 million pounds of waste nationally, much of which is generated by serving more than 300 million park visitors per year – that’s enough to fill the Statue of Liberty more than 1,800 times.

While waste is a major issue in the parks, visitors can make a difference. Subaru of America, experts in zero-landfill sustainability, is sharing its knowledge of these practices with the National Parks to help keep the parks beautiful for the next century. As part of that effort, the automaker, alongside National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), has developed a set of tips that visitors can adopt to help reduce some of the biggest contributors to landfills from national parks, including paper, plastics and glass:

Opt for online: While paper maps can be a park staple, there are smartphone apps that provide the same information and more. Even without cell service, some national park apps will give helpful information about where you can spot wildlife, catch a beautiful sunset, or even find a refillable water station.

Mug for the parks: Bring a reusable coffee mug from home or buy one from the souvenir shop to help reduce the 58 billion paper cups that are sent to America’s landfills every year.

BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle): Americans throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. Keep a refillable water bottle on hand or buy one at gift shop, while taking advantage of convenient refilling stations around the park.

Ditch the Plastic Bag: Help reduce waste by not using a plastic bag for your souvenirs or groceries that you bring into the parks. Instead, bring your own reusable bag or tote for your items to help eliminate plastic bag waste.

Take Out What You Bring in: Think about what you bring in. Check to see if it can be recycled or composted in the park you are visiting. If it cannot, try to take it home. It is often far easier to recycle near your home than in rural park areas.

If you are interested in learning more about Subaru’s efforts or what you can do to help make a positive impact for generations to come, visit

4 important tips for planning a kitchen remodel

(BPT) – Kitchen upgrades can seem daunting. From full renovations to hardware updates, the possibilities are endless when it comes to creating your dream kitchen. To make the process as smooth as possible, Delta Faucet compiled key tips to keep in mind as you embark on the remodeling journey. These quick guidelines will help you focus on the end result and ensure the overall experience is enjoyable.

Storage solutions

Determine storage needs based on how you work. Take inventory of kitchen tools and accessories to determine your path forward. For example, install a cabinet near the stove specifically tailored for pots and pans, or add a narrow cabinet by the oven to house cookie sheets and trays within easy reach. If you rarely use your food processor or slow cooker, choose a cabinet out of the way to guarantee storage space for the items you will need to access more readily. Plan a designated place for every kitchen utensil and appliance to avoid messy drawers and cluttered cabinets.

An island for your needs

A multifunctional island delivers additional storage and prep space to almost any kitchen. Customize your island area based on your cooking and entertaining style. Make the most out of the space to fit your needs. Avid cooks who prepare many big meals might consider including a prep sink for rinsing fruits and vegetables. Conversely, those who love to entertain can use the island to add counter space for hors d’oeuvres and accommodate bar stools.

Faucet functionality

Few people enjoy rinsing messy dishes, but the proper faucet can make this chore easy and carefree. Blending design and functionality, the Delta Mateo Kitchen Faucet with optional Touch2O Technology is an ideal choice for any kitchen redesign. Touch2O Technology with the TempSense system allows the faucet to be turned on and off with just a touch, simplifying kitchen tasks during food prep and clean-up. An LED light at the base of the faucet changes color from blue to red to alert users to the water’s temperature and avoid surprises. Beyond innovative technology, the faucet’s transitional design — inspired by the Italian countryside — works well with a variety of style preferences, creating a beautiful kitchen focal point.

Quick and easy design upgrades

When designing the kitchen of your dreams, take into consideration that tastes and styles are ever evolving. Peel-and-stick backsplashes are budget-friendly as well as quick and easy to install. If your favorite finish or pattern preference changes in a few years, simply replace with a new design for an appealing refresh.

Take the time to plan appropriately with these four tips in mind and you will create a space perfectly tailored to all your kitchen needs. For more information, visit

5 residential design trends in hardwood

(BPT) – Hardwood may be one of the oldest building materials known to man, yet architects, designers and homeowners are always finding fresh ways to use it in the modern home. What’s the appeal? Flexibility and variety, for starters.

“We’re constantly delighted to see how traditional woods like oak and walnut are being employed with renewed flair and imagination,” says Linda Jovanovich, of the American Hardwood Information Center, “Subtle tweaks can make something familiar, look innovative. The current trend is to take a classic hardwood application, like paneling or flooring, and give it a stylish, up-to-the-minute twist. Here’s a look at what’s trending.”

Wide-plank flooring

Perhaps no recent trend has been more influential than the use of wide-plank hardwood flooring. Traditional plank widths, ranging from 2 1/4 to 3 1/2 inches, are still popular. But today’s homeowners often ask for widths between 5 and 7 inches, and there is even demand for up to 10 or 12 inches. “Wider floorboards can make a space look larger and more modern,” says Melissa Morgan of M Interiors in San Antonio, Texas, who has used the generously proportioned planks in traditional and contemporary homes. “With fewer seams, these floors can be treated like a canvas: ebonized oak or walnut for a sleek, dark look; light woods like ash or maple for a chic, urban vibe; weathered-gray tones for a slightly rustic affect — the possibilities are endless.”

Wood ceilings

It used to be that hardwood planks primarily went on floors or walls, but today they’re appearing on residential ceilings too. “Simple poplar beadboard, painted white or with a light natural stain, looks crisp and airy overhead, adding visual interest while remaining quiet and unassuming,” says Rebecca Ascher, Ascher Davis Architects in New York and Newport, Rhode Island. “For a more assertive affect, I might specify tongue-and-groove walnut or hickory, characterful woods that provide a degree of drama. For that reason, they’re best reserved for large, high-ceilinged rooms that are not easily overwhelmed. In smaller, lower spaces, a ceiling with too much personality can feel oppressive.”

Mix and match

Architects and designers, who once avoided using different varieties of hardwood in a single residential space, now mix and match them with newfound enthusiasm. Clearly contrasting wood tones — blond maple and black walnut, for example — create a striking effect that can work well in both traditional and contemporary settings. This is particularly true in kitchens, where a favorite configuration features upper cabinetry in a light-color wood such as birch, and lower cabinetry in a dark-color wood like cherry. The result is a space that has strong visual interest, and is light and airy, yet solidly grounded.

Gray stains and finishes

Gray is a classic “neutral” that never truly goes out of fashion. It’s currently one of the most popular colors, ranging from pale smoke to deep charcoal, showing up in hardwood flooring, paneling and cabinetry. “Whether light or dark, gray stains bring out any wood’s natural grain and texture,” says New York interior designer Laura Bohn. “Grays are versatile and timeless — quiet and soothing colors that recede into the background without losing personality or becoming faceless. That’s why they work in any style décor, yet always look modern.”

Distressed hardwoods

Homeowners drawn to the popular look of weather-beaten rustic and elegantly timeworn are turning to distressed hardwoods — new product to which scrapes, nail holes, notches, saw marks and other signs of wear and tear have been carefully applied, often by hand. Manufacturers are able to reproduce convincing facsimiles of anything from the burnished walnut floorboards of an 18th century salon to the rugged oak-plank siding of a 19th century Pennsylvania barn. It’s a distinctive look that offers a wide range of aesthetics.

Visit for more about residential design trends and other applications and products using American hardwoods.

Fire safety reminders to protect your home and family

(BPT) – With Fire Prevention Week taking place from October 9-15, it’s a great time to evaluate your home for fire safety. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) September 2015 Structure Fires Report, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 357,000 home fires per year between 2009-2013, causing $6.9 billion in damage and 2,470 deaths. The NFPA cites cooking equipment, heating equipment and electrical distribution systems as the three leading causes of accidental home fires, but there are steps homeowners can take to help prevent them.

To help protect your family in the event of a home fire, there are several safety tips and steps that you can take. The NFPA recommends testing your smoke alarms regularly and replacing them every 10 years to best help protect your family and home, but there are several safety tips and steps you can take to further help prevent a fire before it happens. Here are three to consider:

Clear your cooking space. With hot ovens and stovetops, some of which even contain open flames, it’s not surprising that cooking equipment is the leading cause of accidental home fires. It’s important to be aware of your cooking area before, during and after food preparation. Make sure that anything flammable, such as dish towels, pot holders or food containers are moved away from hot surfaces or flames, and that all cooking utensils, like pots, pans, spoons or ladles, are removed from ovens before preheating. Also, take special care and read cooking directions carefully when using flammable ingredients or equipment, such as oils or deep fryers.

Understand your electrical system. Although there are several ways to recognize potential risks of an electrical fire in your home, most homeowners are not aware of the signs or what to look for. For example, keep an eye out for discolored or warm outlets, which are signs of an electrical failure or malfunction and a potential electrical fire. Other signs of electrical issues are flickering or dimming of lights, frequent issues with blowing fuses, or smelling a burning or rubbery odor from appliances. Other often overlooked electrical fire safety tips include using extension cords for temporary needs only, never running cords under rugs or pinched beneath furniture, and to not overload electrical outlets. Though convenient, these common mistakes can result in serious fire hazards.

Purchase and install safety products. In the chance a fire does occur in your home, safety equipment such as smoke detectors and fire extinguishers can mean the difference between life and death, but homeowners should also install devices that can help to prevent fires. Given that 50 percent of the electrical fires that occur each year could be prevented with Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) Outlets, it seems logical that homeowners should install them. AFCIs, like Leviton’s SmartlockPro AFCI Outlet, detect a wide range of arcing electrical faults, which are dangerous and could lead to electrical fires. Once an AFCI Outlet detects an arcing fault, it immediately shuts off power to help prevent potential ignition of a fire. These are important to have in living areas like bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens to protect homeowners from unexpected electrical hazards.

For more information about fire safety and prevention, visit

5 secrets to building the best media room

(BPT) – There was a time when only a few could afford a large screen television. The resolution was clunky, the sound poor and the cost high. But over the past decade, technology has advanced so remarkably fast that today a 60-inch television with unbelievably crisp resolution is within many people’s budget.

Add to this the fact that tickets for movie theaters are more expensive than ever, and it makes sense why more people are building a home theater in their house. With some planning and amazing electronic toys, it’s possible to create a media room that delivers theater-quality sound and visuals. And you can enjoy it in more comfortable seats and without obnoxious strangers interrupting the show.

But 4K televisions, surround-sound speakers and bass cannons are only part of the overall experience.

To compliment these electronics features, you need the right setting to amplify the experience. This means taking the time to design a proper media room that enables your equipment. These five indispensable tips will help you do just that.

1. A great media room begins with the right walls. Incredibly strong, Habito(TM) drywall is able to hold up to 30 pounds on a single screw. This drywall does away with wall mounts and the need to find a stud, allowing you to mount your speakers, television or screen exactly where you want them to go.

2. Paint wisely. While what color you choose for your room will be based off personal preference, aim for earthy, neutral colors that minimize glare. To help draw the focus of the room toward the screen, many paint the wall a burgundy or maroon.

3. Great sound is a result of more than speakers. Designing your room with acoustics in mind is key. Hard surfaces create a sharp, echoing quality to the sound. To avoid this, your media room should be carpeted and instead of hard blinds, use sound dampening curtains to help enhance the sound and keep out the sun. The density of Habito drywall also contributes to reduced sound transmission between rooms, helping to create separation between your media room and the living area of the home.

4. Think about speakers, walls and storage. Though most people’s attention will be drawn to the wall with the television on it, the surrounding walls are equally important. Here is where you mount speakers for the 360-degree sound effect, sconce lighting and floating shelves for design and storage. To properly achieve this, you need a durable wall, such as Habito drywall, that can both hold the needed weight and is strong enough to make it easy to redesign and remount fixtures as needed.

5. Create lighting to accommodate a variety of moods. A media room is meant to be used in a number of ways. Even when you’re watching a movie, you’ll probably turn the lights up then down before it’s over. For this reason, be sure to install dimmable lights that can easily be controlled. This way, you can keep it dark for the dramatic scenes, and when the pizza arrives, have just enough light to see your food but not detract from the picture quality.

It’s easy to only focus on the big “toys” when building a media room. But the secret to a truly great home-theater experience begins in the construction phase, well before anything is plugged in. To learn more about Habito drywall, visit

Move over mosquitoes: Tick prevention grabs attention in fall and winter

(BPT) – Zika-carrying mosquitoes had their moment this year as the nation’s top headline-grabbing pests, but the arrival of cooler weather means the resurgence of another disease-carrying insect. Ticks transmit a number of diseases, including Lyme disease, that affect people and pets. And while cold weather may kill off mosquitoes, ticks remain a year-round threat.

The ticks which spread Lyme disease – adult black-legged or deer ticks – are most active during fall and winter, according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC), which predicts 2016 will be a banner year for ticks. Annually, about 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme Disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate.

Multiple diseases, multiple risks

The CDC lists 15 different diseases transmitted by ticks, including Lyme, anaplasmosis, two types of rickettsiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF). These diseases can vary greatly in severity and duration; some can be debilitating and even fatal.

Ticks thrive virtually everywhere in the country, with different species preferring different locales. While ticks are commonly found in heavily wooded areas, they also thrive in domestic settings such as gardens, landscape plantings and backyard grasses. In fact, experts estimate that the majority of people who contract tick-borne diseases came in contact with the tick that made them ill right in their own backyards.

Tick prevention starts with deer

Ticks hang out on shrubs, trees and in grass waiting for a host to pass by. Hitching a ride on suburban deer and other animals, including pets, is one of their main means of transportation. Cooler weather means deer are more likely to come closer to homes looking for mates, or to dine on suburban landscapes as wild food sources dwindle.

Ticks may travel to your backyard riding on the deer that’s dining on your landscaping, only to stay behind when the deer moves on. Once they’re in your environment, it’s just a waiting game for the tick to find a host; a person, dog or cat passing by.

While you may know the need to inspect humans for ticks after spending time outdoors, it can be harder to detect their presence when they’re hidden in pet fur. Both dogs and cats can pick up ticks that they bring into your home, where the tick may transfer to a human or stick with the pet and make it sick.

The CDC recommends homeowners discourage deer away from residences in order to help minimize potential exposure to ticks.

‘Tick populations do not decrease substantially unless deer are eradicated or severely reduced,’ the CDC says.

Deterring deer

You can discourage deer from entering your environment in a number of ways, from long-term measures like planting vegetation deer don’t like, to sure-fire but challenging tactics like building a tall fence. However, these tactics have their limitations. With cold weather approaching, you don’t have time to install new plantings and deer will eat just about anything available in cold weather. Plus, many communities restrict the height of fences and deer have been known to easily jump over fences as high as 10 feet.

One of the easiest, most effective and practical ways to deter deer is through the use of a topical foliar spray like Bobbex Deer Repellent. The spray can be applied year-round; it uses taste and scent-aversion ingredients to deter deer from grazing on foliage, shrubs and trees. During spring and summer months, gardeners rely on Bobbex to protect their gardens from deer damage. It’s also effective in winter to not only protect plants, but also people and pets – by keeping tick-carrying deer away from homes.

It’s safe for use around children and pets because the product is all natural. It works in fall and winter as well as during warm weather, and won’t wash off under rain or snow. In testing by the Connecticut Department of Forestry and Horticulture, Bobbex was found to be 93 percent effective in deterring deer when compared to like repellents, and second only to a physical fence. Learn more at

Human and companion animal health experts agree: keeping deer away from your home is essential for reducing exposure to disease-bearing ticks. What’s more, experts warn, don’t rely on the weather for help.

Although drought in many areas of the country could affect tick populations, the nymphs responsible for most of the biting ticks have gone into hiding and missed the worst part of the drought. They’ll re-emerge as adults in October, according to an ABC News report.

“(Ticks) have seen lots of changes and are ecologically very successful,” Sam Telford, a professor of infectious diseases at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts told ABC. “One or two years of severe weather may depress their numbers, but remember … the successful feeding of one female tick on a deer translates to 2,000 eggs. It does not take much to reset the clock, as it were, if there was significant mortality for a few years.”

3 surprising home elements you can automate

(BPT) – Just a decade or two ago, home automation was still something of a novelty. Some homeowners might have had programmable thermostats in their homes, but many probably hadn’t thought of automating things like window coverings. Moreover, they likely viewed any home automation they did have as a convenience. Today, home automation is becoming an essential efficiency-enhancing element in many homes.

Right now, just fewer than 6 percent of American households have automated homes, but within four years that percentage is expected to triple to nearly 19 percent, according to data compiled by What’s driving more people to automate their homes? A report by icontrol networks found security, cost savings and eco-friendly energy efficiency are what people find most exciting about home automation.

Heating and cooling, lighting and security systems are among the most common elements automated in homes, but they’re far from the only ones that can save you money and make your home more efficient. Here are three surprising things you can automate in your home to further improve efficiency, boost energy savings and lower energy costs:

Window coverings

Shades, drapes, blinds, and awnings can all help control the amount of heat and light that enter your home. Selecting window coverings to block out light and heat in summer, and admit light in winter, can help your home’s heating and cooling systems work more efficiently. However, the effectiveness of window coverings hinges on opening and closing them at the right time — something you may forget to do, or not be home to do.

Automating and powering window coverings can help automatically maximize their effectiveness. Depending on the climate where you live, automating window coverings could yield energy savings of 11-20 percent, according to a study commissioned by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).

Somfy’s motorized solutions easily integrate with any home automation system, regardless of brand or technology, and offer many options for controlling window coverings. Select from a wide variety of hand-held remotes, sensors, wall switches, and the myLink app that allows you to control your motorized window coverings from mobile devices.

Door locks

If you’ve ever been locked out of your house or had a guest arrive at your home when you were out, you probably wished there was some way to unlock your front door without a key — and from miles away. Smart locks allow you to do both those things and more.

You can replace or supplement an existing lock by installing a smart lock, and you won’t need a professional locksmith to do it. If you can install a regular lock and operate a smartphone, you have the expertise you need to add and use a smart lock.

In addition to allowing you to lock and unlock your door without a key, smart locks also allow you to operate the lock remotely from an app on your phone. You can also receive alerts when the door has been unlocked — a great way to track the comings and goings of latchkey kids. Many allow you to generate a single-use digital key that you can email to guests or service providers who may need to enter your home when you’re not there. Smart locks can also be paired with most popular home automation systems.

Smart appliances

Many appliance makers are offering smart, connected appliances with the big draw being their “wow factor.” However, some of the features of these appliances do hold the potential to improve a home’s efficiency and energy savings.

For example, a refrigerator that tracks groceries and lets you know when you’re about to run out of an important item could help you better plan your shopping trips. Fewer car trips conserves gas and reduces greenhouse emissions. Cooking is another area where automation can relieve some of the energy waste caused by human error. Smart ovens and cooktops can sense when to turn themselves off in case you forget to do it — reducing energy waste and fire risks.

More homeowners are discovering the convenience, security and efficiency advantages of home automation. Technology is helping make American homes more livable and enjoyable.

Brighten your yard this winter with the help of wild birds

(BPT) – Bright colors aren’t often associated with winter — but they can be. In fact, a backyard full of beautiful colors and cheerful chirps may be just a few feedings away.

If you’ve never fed wild birds before, winter is the perfect time to get started. Opening up your backyard to birds during the coldest months of the year means you are helping sustain them during a time when food and water are scarce.

“The winter months are especially tough on birds,” says Seth Estep, vice president and divisional merchandise manager at Tractor Supply Company. “By providing them with a clean water source and food to eat, you’ll not only enjoy seeing far more of them in your garden, but you’ll also be helping them survive and thrive at a time when their natural resources are being threatened.”

If you’re interested in turning your backyard into a hotspot for birds this winter, consider these tips from the experts at Tractor Supply Co.:

The basics

Just like any other living creature, the survival of birds depends on their ability to find food, water and shelter. But as temperatures drop and winter months approach, the availability of these resources dwindles.

That’s where you come in.

Attracting wild birds to your backyard is as simple as creating a space that includes these three essential elements. But remember, birds are quick learners and it won’t take long for them to grow accustomed to your generosity. In other words, if you’re going to open up your backyard to birds, it’s important to continue providing them with food and water throughout the season.


No two birds sing the same song; different types of wild birds prefer different things. Everything from the food you serve to the feeders you serve it in will vary depending on the species of bird you’re dealing with. If you’re not sure what types of wild birds are native to your area, visit the National Audubon Society’s website to find out. Once you familiarize yourself with the specific types of birds that reside in your neighborhood, you can tailor your menu to serve their favorites.

First, focus on the feeder; Tractor Supply carries a number of different style bird feeders, but before making your selection, consider where your feeder will be located. For instance, feeders should be positioned approximately 8-10 feet away from shrubbery where predators may hide. They should also be placed in a sheltered area that’s less exposed to harsh weather and strong winds.

Inclement weather and pesky predators aren’t the only harrowing threat to birds. A dirty feeder can harbor many deadly illnesses, so you’ll want to get in the habit of regularly scraping off bird droppings and disinfecting the feeding area. Make a quick and easy at-home solution by using one part vinegar and 20 parts water — just remember to wait until the feeder is completely dry before refilling.

Types of food

When it comes to wild birds, there are many varieties of feed to choose from. To attract a wide array of birds, consider black oil sunflower seed. You can also mix things up by using multiple feeders to serve different types of mixtures and blends. A great option to consider is Royal Wing TotalCare, which is available in four blends and specifically formulated to attract all types of species, including Woodpeckers, Nuthatches and Chickadees.

Royal Wing TotalCare also makes great products containing suet. Feed containing suet acts as a substitute for natural fat, which is not only difficult to find during colder months but, upon consumption, provides birds with the calories and energy they need to endure the harsh winter elements.

The importance of water

Finding fresh, unfrozen water can be even more difficult for birds than finding food during winter. One or two bird baths arranged around your yard can help ensure birds have an ample source of water for drinking and bathing — which is essential to help them keep their feathers clean for flying.

When temperatures fall below freezing, a birdbath with a built-in heating element can help ensure birds are able to find the water they need. If you already have a birdbath but it doesn’t have a heater, consider buying a drop-in heating element that sits in the bottom of the basin. Another option suggested by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is to place an incandescent light bulb inside a flowerpot and sit the basin on top of the pot. The heat from the bulb will help keep the water in liquid form.

Tractor Supply Company carries all the supplies a family needs to attract wild birds to their backyard, and during the month of October, the rural lifestyle store will be hosting Flocktoberfest where customers will receive great deals on products related to wild birds and poultry. To find a local store near you, visit

For more ideas and tips on how to attract wild birds to your backyard, visit Tractor Supply’s Know How Central.