No rake October 2022

Remember no mow May? The idea was to let the lawn grow and let weeds bloom so that pollinators would have food.  Let’s make this October no rake October. I rake some of the leaves in my own yard because I need them for compost. I used to clean up my garden in the Fall but after learning that the debris provides a habitat for hibernating pollinators I started leaving it until early May.

Maple leaf
Maple leaf

You don’t need to rake all of those pretty leaves. There are a few reasons not to.  The leaves provide shelter and even food for animals like chipmunks, box turtles, and earthworms. Butterfly pupae use the layers for protection as they grow over the chilly months.

As the leaves decompose (no, they won’t litter your lawn forever), they form a natural mulch and help fertilize the soil. They can be mulched with the lawnmower next spring.

Leaves do not belong in the trash. If you must rake take the leaves to a compost site. Personally, I like to photograph the leaves.


Do your homework, consult an expert for home maintenance tips

Yesterday I was listening to advice about fall home maintenance on a local news station. The people we see on TV are not from here and I am not sure where they got the advice from but it was mostly useless and not entirely correct, but repeated over and over.

Yes getting a furnace or boiler tune-up or check-up this time of year is a great idea. As for preventing the pipes “outside of your house” from freezing, I can only assume they mean the outdoor spigot.  I have been in hundreds of houses in the metro area and haven’t seen a single house with outdoor pipes.

To protect the spigot outside your house turn the water off to that pipe from the inside. Drain the water from the pipe by turning the spigot on. Remove the hose if there is a hose attached. Realistically none of this has to be done before Halloween or so. An overnight low that is below freezing generally won’t hurt your pipes.

It is true that mice can get into your house through the smallest holes. Our cat usually catches a couple of mice that find their way into the house. I am not sure where they come in, but when I find a hole I stuff steel wool into it or caulk.

There are times when every homeowner needs the services of a professional, an exterminator or the mice will win.

It doesn’t hurt to consult YouTube or Google before taking advice from the local news or from social media. There are oh so many how-to videos that are actually pretty good.

When my dad was alive I used to consult him. Maybe your dad can help you.

It is box elder bug season

So far the box elder season hasn’t been as bad as last year’s box elder season. Yet I am removing carcasses from the house and cleaning brown spots off the exterior doors and windows.

Box elder bugs are black with red stripes and they are everywhere. They like to hang out on the side of the house on a sunny afternoon. They are harmless or so the experts say. They don’t bite or carry disease. I don’t like having them in my house and I have no idea how they are getting in but I don’t imagine they need much of an opening.

There is one home remedy that will kill them without harming bees or butterflies or anything else.  Put some water in a spray bottle with a squirt of dish soap or laundry detergent. If it doesn’t work you didn’t put in enough.  The mixture doesn’t kill the bugs on contact but they will die.

A person could go out and buy some kind of poison to kill the bugs but that seems like a waste of money. The bugs will just keep coming no matter how many we kill. My goal is to keep them out of the house which is challenging. I still remember a Thanksgiving when a box elder bug got into the mac and cheese.

The first hard frost will kill some of them off but some will get inside and survive.

Now is the time for planting and landscaping projects

Grass is out and pollinator gardens are all the rage. It is about having a bee and butterfly-friendly yard. Planting or allowing native plants to grow can help make a better and more sustainable garden.

Why are pollinator gardens so popular? Because the bee population is declining and has declined by as much as 40% according to some news sources. Pesticides, fungicides, and the way we garden are all at least partly to blame.

After a couple of years of drought, I am learning to choose plants that don’t need a lot of water. Drought has stressed trees, bushes, and shrubs.

You may see a lot of bees in your yard or this time of year you may see a lot of them on sedum, aster, and goldenrod because those plants attract bees.

It isn’t enough to plant flowers that attract pollinators. Best practices include growing native plants and not disturbing bumblebee nests and leaving some of the flower stalks in your garden over the winter.

September is also a great time to plant trees, shrubs, and a variety of perennials and bulbs. In the Metro area, we have until about the end of October to plant.

Gardening isn’t something that can be done once and forgotten about. There is ongoing maintenance and some plants will take a few years to establish themselves.

Monarch butterflies – on blazing star

If you are interested in making your yard more pollinator-friendly a great place to start is the University of Minnesota Extension website.  

There is a survey on the site and useful information about landscaping and gardening in Minnesota. There is information about bees and plants.

Landscaping is a good investment that will increase the value of your home. Landscaping that attracts pollinators may also attract homebuyers.

honey bee on aster


How I spent labor day 2022

I spent the holiday weekend painting. Never underestimate the power of a fresh coat of paint. I painted my office which is challenging because of the cables and equipment and the fact that I seem to spend 25 hours a day working in the space.

A decade or so ago I painted the room yellow. I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe it was a trend or a fad but I got tired of it quickly.

The room is now more of a beige-grey. The color is called “Balboa Mist” by Benjamin Moore. I buy my paint at Ace hardware and most often use the store brand.

It took three days to do the job and I still have a little left to paint. Emptying and moving a large bookcase was time-consuming as was all the wall washing and taping. The instructions on the can always say “covers in one coat” but it needed a coat and a half to cover that yellow.

When I paint I clean as I go. I washed the curtains and the windows too. It doesn’t sound like a fun weekend but I will appreciate my efforts for years to come when I walk into my office and there isn’t any yellow. I like to think of it as an investment in myself, the house, and my business.

In the last decade yellow and “Tuscan” were popular paint colors. I have sold and photographed entire houses where every room was yellow. Yellow is the hardest color to photograph. The photos tend to look yellowish.

My new color is somewhat trendy but it is also neutral and generally speaking, it plays well with most other colors. I won’t get sick of it as quickly. I’ll never again paint anything yellow.

My office has two large windows and three doorways. One of the doors is an exterior door and it has a window. It is a corner office too and gets a lot of light.

Start thinking about the winter of 2022/23

Yes I know it is hot and it is August but we all know what comes next and can expect high heating costs this winter. Now is the perfect time to schedule yearly maintenance for your furnace or boiler.  I’ll admit I am on a kind of every-other-year plan and could probably skip this year but I know too many homeowners who never have their heating plant checked or tuned and a few who don’t bother to change the filter on a regular basis.

Antique furnaces and boilers

Watch for promotions and seasonal discounts. A word of caution about HVAC contractors and companies. Some companies are more interested in upselling than in providing maintenance.

When the temperature dips below zero for a few days it is hard to get someone to come out and fix the heating plant and when it becomes an emergency repair the price goes way up.

If you are selling your home this fall or winter it is a good idea to have the furnace or boiler serviced and save the receipt or even tape it to the furnace. Buyers who are closing on homes this fall should either have the furnace tuned up or should make sure that the seller has already taken care of it.