Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tips for Pet Health & Safety in Winter

The cold is here – and likely to stay – as we work our way up to the dark winter months. Digging through closets for our heavy coats and scarves, hats and gloves is all part of the process to keep ourselves warm while venturing outside. But what about our furry friends? Pets and cold weather aren’t always a good match, so it’s important to take special measures to ensure they safely make it through what can be a tough season with their health and happiness intact.

Here at Paris Farmers Union, we’ve put together a few winter pet safety tips to help your loved pets get through the winter, whether they love frolicking through the snow or would rather stay curled up by the fire for the next four months. Read on to learn more!

  • For pets that stay outside most of the time, they’ll probably need some kind of shelter as protection from the elements. Make sure it’s warm, dry and doesn’t let in drafts. 
  • Imagine wandering through snow drifts barefoot. Doesn’t sound too comfortable, does it? And it’s often not comfortable for pets, either – especially when chunks of snow build up between the pads of their paws. Avoid this discomfort (and the possibility of frostbite) by putting booties on your pet’s paws. They also may like a coat or hat, depending on how thick their own coats are. Warning signs of frostbite are waxy, firm skin and blisters, so keep an eye out for those.
  • Pets that come in and out of your home frequently during the wintertime will start to feel the effects of flaky, itchy skin. Keep your home humidified and towel dry your pet as soon as they come inside to alleviate this discomfort.
  • This may go without saying, but save shaving your pet for the warmer months, as they’ll need as much hair or fur as possible to hold their heat. For animals with long hair, give them a trim to reduce the buildup of snow on their coats.
  • Cold temperatures mean we’re all burning more calories to stay warm – so outdoor pets will probably need more food than usual. Keep an eye on their food bowls, and notice whether or not they’re chomping down more than usual. While you’re at it, make sure their water stays in liquid form; you don’t want your animal to have to lap at a frozen puddle to stay hydrated.
  • Wash and dry your pet’s feet after walks to remove snow balls, salt and any melting chemicals that may line your neighborhood’s streets and sidewalks. You don’t want your pet being exposed to those chemicals by licking them, so best to wash everything off before they’ve got the chance.
  • While we’re on the subject of chemicals, antifreeze is another one that can cause serious harm to your pet if ingested. If you’re using antifreeze on your vehicle(s), be sure not to leave any spills behind that an animal could lap up. If your pet starts to convulse or act drunk and you suspect they could have been exposed to antifreeze, contact your vet as soon as possible. 
  • Baths should be avoided during low temperatures, as they’ll remove essential oils your pet needs and increase dryness of their skin. 
  • Ever started your car on a cold winter day to see a screeching cat jump out from beneath your hood? A warm motor is the perfect place for kitties to curl up next to – until the engine rears up for its next ride. So before starting your car, give your hood a couple taps to make sure no creatures have found their way inside. 
  • If temperatures are really low, consider bringing outdoor pets inside. It’s not a good idea to stay out in the frigid air for too long, so it may be wise to venture out only for your pets to relieve themselves and then head back indoors. 

Your pets may not be able to tell you how much they dislike being cold, but rest assured, they feel that same air you do and know when enough is enough. Keep them happy and warm with these tips, and you’ll be on your way to enjoying a winter wonderland, however low the temperatures plummet this year!


Monday, November 14, 2016

Holiday Decorating Ideas for Your Home, Inside & Out

The holidays are just around the corner, and with them, the hustle and bustle that accompanies them each year. This year, wouldn’t it be nice to focus on your own home, adding some holiday cheer in the small details? Or maybe some big details, too. Whether you’re a veteran at holiday decorating or are new to this vast world, you’ll be sure to find some holiday decorating ideas and tips you hadn’t thought of here. Just remember, you can make your d├ęcor exactly as simple or complicated as you want it to be – just enjoy the process!

For those of you who want to add a little festivity to the inside of your home, we offer the following indoor Christmas ideas:

  • Clip cards you receive to a string and hang them along your staircase – or across any wall if you don’t have stairs.
  • Place festive candles throughout your home. Whether they’re green, red, gold or white, light them in the evenings (or even by mid-afternoon this time of year) for a warm, welcoming ambiance. Deep windowsills or end tables are ideal – just be sure that any drapes or other materials don’t get too close and catch the flame. 
  • Make your own Advent calendar to count down the days until Christmas using a bulletin board and 24 envelopes. Be sure to put a special little something in each one!
  • Add wrapped presents under the tree as you go – you’re going to be wrapping them anyway, so why not double their use as both a present for someone you love and a decoration for your house in the meantime? The trick is in the final touches – a gorgeous, bright ribbon, perhaps tucking a candy cane under the knot.
  • Hang ornaments from strings in your front window for some simple holiday flair.

And for those of you who want to wow your neighbors and any passersby with your holiday spirit from the street, a few outdoor Christmas decoration ideas:

  • Use glass vases or mason jars to light the path to your front door for guests on their way in. Just pour a thin layer of rock salt at the bottom of each vase or jar and place a tea candle inside for a gorgeous illumination guiding guests to your home.
  • Or if it’s really cold out, replace the mason jars with ice lanterns to hold the candles. You can make your own ice lanterns by placing a plastic cup filled with rocks (or something to weigh it down inside of a larger plastic container. Fill the larger plastic container with water, and then freeze the whole thing overnight, either in your freezer or outside. You can even place berries or leaves in the water (before freezing) as decoration. To get the ice lanterns out of their containers, run warm water along the outside and viola – a pretty ice lantern!
  • If you’re handy and have some extra plywood lying around, try sawing the wood into holiday decorations like evergreen trees to set up in your yard.
  • Hang some frozen fruit ornaments from trees for your furry and feathered friends using a plate, string and your favorite holiday berries, oranges and greens. 
  • Illuminate your porch (or stoop) with some pretty birch log luminaries – just cut a birch log into a few pieces of varying heights, drill holes into one of the two flat sides (large enough to fit a tea candle), and you’ve got beautiful, natural candle holders. 
  • String cranberries to make a garland and wrap the garland around any greenery you have in planters.
And of course, check out our own selection of holiday decorating items, offering everything from string lights to angels, ornaments to tree stands. It’s time to get into that holiday spirit – so embrace it!
Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Winterizing Your Outdoor Equipment

In our past two blog entries, we provided a detailed guide for prepping your home and plants for the impending winter season. We’re continuing with this theme but shifting our focus to the toolshed. When winter rolls around, Jack Frost can wreak havoc on unattended lawn tools – especially power equipment like mowers, blowers and hedge trimmers. These power tools are substantial monetary investments that can often be neglected during the off-season. Freezing temperatures throw a wrench into the inner workings of small gas engines and, in some instances, cause irreparable damage.

Thankfully, with a little foresight, you can avoid wasting valuable time (and money) futilely futzing with a faulty gas engine or replacing it altogether. Prepare for the impending cold front by following these simple steps, and ensure a smooth start to the spring season.

Regulate Storage Temperature

If you’ve ever plugged in a power tool only to have it sputter and shudder, the engine might be having difficulty generating the heat required to power up. After months of lying dormant in a frigid environment, your engine is unable to adjust to such a dramatic shift in internal temperature.

In addition, the freezing cold also has the potential to drain an engine’s battery life and substantially accelerate degeneration. Certain chargers are completely ineffective after being exposed to the cold for prolonged periods of time.

To extend the longevity of your tools and ensure easy startup, invest in a portable garage heater. Your heating unit doesn’t need to be robust or cranked up to full capacity – in fact, that would be wasteful. As long as your shed’s temperature is kept slightly above freezing, your tools should be able to rev up without issue.

Remove or Stabilize Your Leftover Gas

Left untouched, oil gradually oxidizes and turns into a heavier sludge that is less effective at lubricating your engine. Old gas also does not ignite as well as fresh fuel. At the tail end of fall, stagnant gasoline should be completely cleared out or stabilized prior to storage.

Emptying out your equipment is simple – unscrew the fuel tank and dump the remains into a capped container. If you’re unable to drain all of the gas, try using a turkey baster or similar hand pump to get every last drop. Once full, dispose of your unwanted fuel responsibly at your community’s toxic waste center.

Instead of tossing out your fuel, you can add a gas stabilizer to it. By diluting your gasoline with fresh fuel or a product like Sta-Bil, you can substantially mitigate the effects of oxidation. Once your gas has been diluted, make sure to store it in an air-tight container to seal it off from additional oxygen.

Clean Filters, Hinges & Spark Plugs

After frequent use during the spring and summer, engine parts can deteriorate and suffer poor performance. Before stowing your tools, open up the insides and perform a thorough examination of your filters. To swap out your fuel filter with ease, bend a metal coat hanger, snag your fuel line and replace the filter attached to the end. A torn air filter can cause debris to accumulate. Fortunately, changing air filters is a breeze – just make sure you wear a dust mask!

Spark plugs are also an easy fix. To keep your plugs in perfect condition, remove them with a wrench and scrub off residue. If your plugs are particularly filthy, don’t worry – replacing spark plugs is quick and inexpensive.

Another inevitability of winter storage is unwanted contact with moisture. If your ceiling suffers a leak, moisture can seep onto your equipment’s hinges and rust them beyond repair. To prevent rust from deteriorating your tools, rub them down liberally with lubricant.  

By taking these precautions, you’ll stay one step ahead of winter and avoid defrosting your equipment in the spring. These tips may seem like common sense, but with the hectic holiday season, it’s easy to neglect tools lying dormant in your shed. Check out our selection of lawn power equipment and then our heating & cooling page to ensure your tools survive winter!  

Friday, October 14, 2016

7 Ways to Protect Your Plants This Winter

It’s already mid-October, and that means it’s time to start thinking about how to protect your cherished garden during the cold winter months. Whether you relish this time of year or long for spring to arrive, many of your plants will likely need some added protection to survive – so don’t leave them hanging. Taking a couple of simple steps will keep your lovely greenery intact come spring so you can enjoy your garden once again and not take repeated trips to the nursery for a brand new collection.

Here, we provide you with some tried-and-tested tips and tricks for plant survival through Mother Nature’s harshest months. Choose your favorite method of winter plant protection, or try them all!

1) Lay a thick layer of wood chips or straw over flower and perennial beds. This should be about 6 to 8 inches thick, providing some protection so that your beds bloom again in the spring. Remember, raised beds allow more cold air to come through the sides of the box, so this is an important area to protect.

2) Mulch your plants. That’s right: mulch is now a verb and refers to removing the old mulch from around your plants and adding a fresh 3-inch layer. Be sure to leave a ½-inch space around each plant’s stem for air circulation and to prevent rot. No plant wants to rot their way through the cold winter – it’s already tough enough.

3) Water your plants before a freeze, ideally early in the day so your plants have time to absorb it. This sounds counter-intuitive, given that being cold and wet sounds much worse than just being cold, but, in fact, cold air is usually very dry, so it will absorb the moisture faster than the plant can absorb it. Also, plant cells that are full with water will fare better against colder temperatures than otherwise because water can act as an insulator.

4) Also before a freeze, place plant covers for winter using, for instance, a piece of burlap or the like. These can stay on top of the plants – including their entire root zone – for the duration of the freeze but should be removed again during the daytime or once it starts to rain. You can bind or tie the material down, but try to avoid attaching them to or hanging them on the plant, as this can cause damage. Instead, stick stakes in the ground around the plant so you can hang the covering on those. You can also wrap burlap around the trunks of smaller trees for added protection.

5) Place a screen or shield of some sort around your plants on the southwest side to protect them from fierce winds and snow, as this is the direction from which most damage usually comes. 

6) Don’t feel bad if you don’t do anything before a couple fluffy inches of snow fall – that snow will insulate the ground around your plants. As long as it’s not heavy, wet snow, which will weigh down your plants and risk breaking their branches or stems. 

7) For potted plants, the exotic ones from tropical climates should probably be brought inside – say, to your bathroom (as long as there’s light) where they’ll soak up the moisture from your showers. But, for those that are hardy enough to stay outside all winter long, give them some protection. This may be physically wrapping them for an extra layer of warmth with, say, a blanket, towel or piece of foam. Or perhaps moving the plant to a more protected, shielded area, whether a corner or a garage. It’s even possible to plant them directly in the ground or bury them, pot and all. 

So there you have it – an array of solutions to your winter garden worries. Spend some time planning what makes the most sense for your yard, and then put those plans into action before it’s too late. Your spring self will appreciate your efforts, and so will your plants. Feel free to add any additional tips in the comments below!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How to Prepare for Heating Your Home This Winter

Fall has just begun, and winter is coming (Game of Thrones anyone?). You probably don’t have to worry about White Walkers, but winter can still be a harrowing experience if your home isn’t properly heated—no one likes wearing mittens indoors. Paris Farmers Union has endured 97 frigid New England winters thus far, so we understand better than anyone the importance of prepping for the season in advance.

We’ve compiled a few tips to aid you in the preparation process. It’s a hassle to be proactive, but you’ll thank us when a cold front inevitably rolls in. By following along with this abridged heating-your-home handbook, you’ll avoid being mistaken for the friendly neighborhood snowman.

Insulate Drafty Ducts & Windows

Precious heat can easily leak from an uninsulated duct or window and raise your bill as a result. Dealing with a drafty window is a relatively quick fix—seal the frame with caulk and apply an adhesive weather strip. These two improvements should be sufficient, but you can also install a second sash lock to keep any excess air from seeping through the bottom of the pane.

Leaky ducts are a little trickier to tackle—major repairs should be performed by an experienced professional. Ducts are responsible for the even distribution of air throughout your home, so their repair is worth investing in. If you’re determined to patch up a small problem on your own, try taping your duct joints with foil and fiberglass wrap.  

Install a New Thermostat

It’s important that your home stays warm while you’re inside, but it’s just as vital that the temperature adjusts in your absence. Unless you’re hoping to have the highest heating bill on the block, we suggest that you invest in a reliable programmable home thermostat. While already included in many homes, a digital thermostat’s benefits can’t be overstated—it optimizes your home’s heating by adhering to a consistent schedule. To cut costs and increase efficiency, make sure your thermostat is set to 68 degrees while you’re at home during the day. You don’t need a handyman to install a thermostat; simply follow along with this instructional video and tutorial.

Keep Warm by a Crackling Fire

In addition to being an eye-pleasing centerpiece and an entrance for Santa, a gas fireplace can be a lifesaver in the cold winter months. We suggest selecting a vent-free model. These fireplaces burn ventless gas logs and provide greater heat output, use less gas and produce less pollution. Unvented fireplaces are sometimes the only possibility for two-story homes because of installation complications, and they typically come with a much cheaper price tag than comparable vented models. While generally vent-free gas fireplaces are clean burning, in very small homes you may experience light indoor pollution from their use.

If you aren’t drawn by the charm of sitting around open flames during the holidays, you can opt for an electric fireplace. In addition to being a cheaper solution, an electric fireplace produces no fumes, is extremely efficient and is simple to install. Unlike wood-burning fireplaces, maintenance is minimal—you don’t have to worry about logs or cleaning a sooty chimney. 

Invest in a Few Space Heaters

You can quickly heat up a room of almost any size through the installation of a supplemental home heater. These heaters are great for their portability—you can easily move them from one room to another as the need arises. A downside of using space heaters indoors is their flammability, so it’s important that the surrounding area is clear of clutter and that they’re turned off at night. We recommend getting an electric space heater as they’re safer and cleaner-burning than gas solutions.

Patios are a great place to host and entertain guests during the summer months, but they often go unused during the winter. Cold weather shouldn’t keep you from enjoying your backyard during the holidays—consider investing in an outdoor patio heater. These heaters are affordable, portable and safe to use as there’s no open flame.

Preparing for winter can be a daunting task, but we hope these tips will help you defrost in even the fiercest snowstorms. Be sure to check out our heating & cooling page for all the tools you need to keep warm this holiday season!   

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Safety Measures for Home Improvement Projects

You’ve got a home improvement project lined up and you’re ready to tackle it – congrats! You’ve gathered your supplies, read up on the “how to” and now it’s time to get to work. But there’s one more thing to wrap your head around before you get started: safety measures! Safety isn’t the most exciting part of a home DIY, but it’s very necessary and could save you from being one of the thousands of people who end up in the emergency room each year due to an injury while performing home improvement projects.

Naturally, every project will have its own home improvement safety tips to follow, depending on the equipment being used and what exactly the labor entails. Here, however, we provide you with a few general guidelines to keep in mind. Read on for an overview – and be sure to do a little investigating on the specifics of what you’ll be doing, too, so as not to miss any important warnings or reminders.

Forget Fashion; Go Practical

First off, you want to make sure you’re wearing appropriate attire. Don’t dress to the nines – or anywhere close to it, for that matter. Think practical. Make sure your clothing is comfortable and allows you to move around easily (and quickly). Also, don’t wear clothing that is too loose or baggy – you don’t want to get caught on anything. Skip the jewelry and any other dangly accessories, too.

It’s usually a good idea to wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from flying debris, as well as ear plugs to protect your ears from damage while operating any loud power equipment.

Power Tool Tips

While we’re on the topic of power tools, there are a few things to keep in mind while operating one. Before you begin to operate a power tool, be sure to read through the instructions carefully. Look for the UL safety mark on your tools so you know they’re up to this globally-recognized standard. Don’t walk away from a power tool when it’s active - make sure it’s turned off and unplugged, and be sure it’s out of reach of any little ones who might wander by. Care for your tools by avoiding yanking their cords out of the electrical socket or carrying them by their cords, and keep them away from oil, heat and sharp edges. When they’re not in use, store your tools in a safe, dry place.

What You Need to Know About Ladders

If you’re working in any high spaces, a ladder will probably be involved. Most accidents with ladders are due to incorrect placement, so knowing how to arrange your ladder is really important. If you’ve got a ladder leaned up against a wall or other structure, follow the 4-to-1 rule. This rule states that for every four feet of ladder, you should place the ladder one foot away from whatever it’s leaning against. Also be sure to check out the instructions for the specific ladder you’re looking to use. Certain ladders are best for certain tasks, so try to find what is optimal for whatever it is you’re doing. Regardless, make sure your ladder is long enough and fully welded so it’s able to withstand the weight necessary for your project. 

A First-Aid Kit, Always 

You’ve got the right attire, you’re operating your tools correctly and you know what to do. Unfortunately, despite all your best efforts, accidents do still happen. When they do, be prepared with a fully stocked first aid kit. Know where it is and what’s in it so that when you’re in a rush to get what you need, you can do it as quickly as possible. 

Be Aware of What’s Around You

Whether you’re working in a room on your own or in a busy building full of people coming and going, be aware of your surroundings at all times. Know where other people are – and who may be entering your workspace – and know what’s on the floor or just in your area in terms of power tools, sharp edges or anything else that could potentially cause an accident.

Doing DIY projects can be a lot of fun and can save you some money, too. But it’s far from worth it if an accident occurs. Minimize the risk by following these suggestions – they’re mostly common sense, but a small slip-up can have a heavy price. You can never be too careful, so make sure you err on the side of safety every time. Feel free to leave a comment if you have more DIY safety tips to add – and good luck!
Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Checklist of Essential Items for Hunting Season This Fall

As summer draws to a close, hunters throughout the Northeast are anticipating the fall hunting season. It’s time to stash away the swimsuits and towels in favor of ammo and camo. Before we know it, Thanksgiving will be right around the corner.

But before you start hoisting your tree stand with mouthwatering visions of venison for dinner, you’ll need to prepare. Here, we’ve put together a list of essentials for turkey, deer and elk hunting this fall. 
Depending on your region, this hunting supplies list may vary. We’ve whittled it down to the essentials that may span across multiple types of hunting (except where specifically noted). As a result, we’ve left off equipment like firearms and focused this list more toward the basic gear hunters may or may not forget while packing up the truck. For more ideas or inspiration, you can check out our selection of hunting supplies!

So without further ado, let’s get to the essentials: 

Cell phone – Embrace this modern age (while avoiding the need for smoke signals); don’t forget your phone in case of emergencies (or victory pics at the end of the weekend!).
Your license – This seems like a no-brainer, but your license is an easy thing to forget, and it will really put a damper on your day if you get caught without it.
Pocket knife or multi-tool – It’s always a good idea to keep one on hand for small jobs or quick fixes. 
First-aid kit – Don’t return home with a tragic story because you forgot a first-aid kit. Trust us.
Water – The hydrated hunter is the focused hunter. 
Toilet Paper – Again, don’t return home with a tragic story because you forgot toilet paper. (All jokes aside, be sure to pack a roll… or two.)
Flashlight, lighter, matches – Let there be light! When the sun sets, you’ll be glad you didn’t leave yourself in the dark; plus, those frosty nights are on their way – a fire might be required. 
Catch-all bag with various necessities – It's always a 
good idea to pack a bag with small utensils or toiletries.
Hunting knife, elbow-length plastic gloves, surveyor's flagging tape – For deer and elk hunters, this is just a quick rundown of the tools you’ll need following the kill.
Various calls for locating, attracting and targeting – For turkey hunters, some examples may include locator and diaphragm calls among others. Variables include distance and stage of the hunt. For deer and elk hunters, this will probably be grunt tubes and rattling antlers.
Compass – Unless you were born in the woods where you’re hunting, we highly recommend a compass. Getting lost as the sun goes down is a feeling not unlike Indiana Jones landing in a pit of snakes (read: panic).
Binoculars and range finder – For deer and elk hunters, and maybe some turkey hunters, these are perfect for looking for game from a great distance while perched above the trees.
Scents and lures – Mostly for deer hunters, scents and lures are a key part of the hunt when attracting game.
Rain gear/warm clothes – Anticipate the elements, especially as the season begins to change from summer to fall to, eventually, winter. This most certainly depends on your region, but Northern hunters take notice.
Folding saw – This is a fantastic tool to bring along for a multitude of tasks while in the wild.
Rope – You need it to hang your game; it’s ideal when preparing to transport game home. Be sure it’s sturdy and there’s plenty of it.
Insect repellent – This might apply more to hunters in warmer climates, but nevertheless, take the proper measures to ward off bites and stings that may interfere when you’ve spotted a target. 
Game bags/dry ice – Use these for preserving and protecting your harvest until it’s home and ready for storage. Be sure to purchase the proper sizes depending on your game.
Large coolers for game (foam coolers are perfect) – The final step in traveling home with your bounty is making sure it’s safely contained and chilled.

And if it’s deer you’ll be hunting out there (specifically whitetails), check out David Libby’s book, “Hunting Whitetails From On High” before heading out. Libby writes specifically about dealing with the whitetail issues in Maine where hunting is competitive and deer numbers are low.

Double- and triple-check your list before heading out this season. You can never be too prepared when spending a day, or weekend, in the wild. We wish you the best on your hunt – and feel free to head over to our Hunting Supplies section for some of the best hunting gear you’ll find anywhere!