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Community Involvement  
Plow & Hearth Protects our Nation's Rivers
By Jennifer Whipple
4/18/2016 3:42:00 PM  

Together, we can help protect and restore our nation’s rivers.


Flint River
From rivers to tree roots to drinking water and beyond, clean water keeps the world flowing. That’s why Plow & Hearth is proud to help support American Rivers, the nation’s leading river conservation organization.

Merrimack River In New England


A nonprofit organization, American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign.

America's Most Endangered Rivers

National River Cleanup®

Plow & Hearth is privileged to be a corporate sponsor of National River Cleanup®. Rivers flow through our towns, provide clean drinking water, support fish and wildlife, and give us opportunities to fish and paddle, making memories that last a lifetime.

Russell Fork River


Our rivers are vital to our health and happiness. American Rivers launched National River Cleanup® in 1991, offering support to individuals, organizations and anyone interested in conducting a cleanup on their local river. Since its start, more than 1.3 million volunteers have participated in thousands of cleanups across the country, covering more than 252,694 miles of waterways. These cleanups have removed more than 25 million pounds of litter and debris from America’s rivers and streams.

Brown trout in Smith River, Montana


Since launching our partnership with American Rivers In 2011, Plow & Hearth has organized an Annual Associate Cleanup Day on the Rivanna River near our offices in Virginia, where associates on foot and in kayaks and canoes have removed an estimated 2+ tons of trash.


Learn more

The health of America's rivers depends on concerned citizens intent on helping to protect our waterways and the clean water, wildlife and recreation they support for generations to come. For more information or to learn how you can participate in a National River Cleanup®, visit American Rivers.

facts


Currently rated 0 by 0 people

Tags: river conservation, giving back to the environment, community involvment
Categories: Community Involvement
Selecting & Caring For Furniture  
Eucalyptus: Beautiful. Durable. Affordable. Better than ever!
By Jennifer Whipple
3/4/2016 11:55:00 AM  

Claremont Seating Collection, Eucalyptus Wood Outdoor Furniture
Eucalyptus Claremont Seating Collection

Want to furnish (or refurnish) your porch or patio, but don’t know where to start? From metal to plastic to wicker, the choice of materials is endless. But if the natural beauty and timeless look of wood is the only way for you, Eucalyptus Outdoor Furniture is one of the best ways to go.

Here’s why:

1. Eucalyptus wood furniture is beautiful, yet surprisingly affordable.

If you’ve ever been impressed by the beauty and quality of teak outdoor furniture, but less than impressed by the expense, we’ve got great news: premium-grade eucalyptus wood (like the kind Plow & Hearth uses in our huge selection of eucalyptus outdoor furniture) is every bit as lustrous and beautiful as teak, but not nearly as expensive.


Slatted Wood Porch Swing
Eucalyptus Slatted Porch Swing and Rocker


Why? Part of the reason teak is so expensive is that it takes many years to mature – at least 20 before it’s ready to harvest for quality furniture. Eucalyptus wood, on the other hand, can be ready to be made into fine furniture in as little as 12 years, putting it at a 60% faster growth rate! This makes eucalyptus more readily available as a hardwood than teak– and thus more affordable.

Which leads us to another great thing about eucalyptus:

2. Eucalyptus wood furniture is environmentally friendly.

Choosing eucalyptus furniture saves the environment while saving you money! It’s true – eucalyptus is super-sustainable. Not only is it the fastest-growing hardwood in the world, it can be regrown from its own roots over and over. This means wood production companies can get their trees from carefully managed eucalyptus plantations instead of logging native and endangered rain forests.

Another thing that makes eucalyptus so eco-friendly is the fact that we use more than just the wood. The natural oils are used to make cleaning products, deodorizers, cough drops and decongestants, and insect repellent. The flowers provide food for beneficial birds, insects and bats. And the trees themselves are natural water-purifiers, drawing large amounts of water and cleansing it of toxins before releasing it back into the air.

They’re popular with koalas, too!

Koala
3. Eucalyptus wood furniture lasts for many years.

Eucalyptus furniture may be easier on the wallet than teak, but it’s just as resilient. Familiar with the saying, “penny wise, pound foolish?” It’s a great maxim – but it doesn’t apply to eucalyptus, which is actually a great value.

You’d have to search pretty hard to find an affordable hardwood that beats eucalyptus for longevity. The same natural oils that give it its sweet smell also keep destructive bugs at bay – a must for furniture that lives outdoors. These same essential oils also repel water and moisture naturally, protecting the wood and giving it a high resistance to rot and mildew.

Eucalyptus Adirondack Outdoor Furniture
Eucalyptus Adirondack Outdoor Furniture


The eucalyptus wood used to make Plow & Hearth’s outdoor furniture is high-quality, kiln-dried timber, extremely dense, with a straight grain and smooth, low-maintenance finish that stand up to the elements year after year.

4. Our Eucalyptus wood outdoor furniture is now better than ever!

Our fine collection of Eucalyptus furniture (most certified by the Forest Stewardship Council) includes chairs, benches, loungers, rockers, love seats, coffee tables and more, all in beautifully designed styles that will complement any outdoor décor.

See how we've improved our eucalyptus furniture collection!
We've made significant improvements to our eucalyptus furniture collection!


The difference is in the details!  With the impressive enhancements we’ve made to our Lancaster Eucalyptus Collection, we’re delivering our highest-quality pieces yet. With improved hardware, a beautiful, weather-resistant multi-step finish, more generous sizing, and smoother, sturdier mechanisms, you’re sure to discover many features that will change how you do outdoor living for the better.

Lancaster Outdoor Furniture Collection, Eucalyptus Wood Extension Table and 6 Chairs
Eucalyptus Lancaster Collection Extension Table & Chairs


See it in action!




Currently rated 0 by 0 people

Tags: outdoor furniture, patio furniture, outdoor living, eucalyptus, yard & garden
Categories: Selecting & Caring For Furniture
Recipes  
Happy National Chocolate Cake Day!
By Jennifer Whipple
1/27/2015 10:04:00 AM  
In celebration of National Chocolate Cake Day, here's an oh-so-chocalately recipe!

Forbidden Treasure Print by Ron Schmidt

Ultra-Chocolately Cake

Ingredients:

1 package chocolate cake mix
1 package chocolate instant pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup canola oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips (mini chocolate chips are best)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients with the exception of the chocolate chips (batter will be thick)
  3. Stir in the chocolate chips
  4. Pour batter into two 9-inch cake pans (or cake pan of choice)
  5. Back according to directions on cake mix package plus an additional ten minutes
  6. Test for doneness with a toothpick; keep checking after five minutes if not baked through
  7. Allow to cool thoroughly before frosting

Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

1½ cups butter (3 sticks), softened
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
5 cups confectioner’s sugar
½ cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon espresso powder

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, add cocoa and whisk through to remove all lumps
  2. Add butter and cream together until well-combined
  3. Add sugar and milk to cocoa mixture a little at a time, blending well on a high speed
  4. Add vanilla extract and espresso powder and blend well
  5. If frosting appears too dry, add more milk (a tablespoon at a time) until it reaches the right consistency; if it appears to wet or does not hold its form, add more confectioner’s sugar (a tablespoon at a time) until it reaches the right consistency

Currently rated 5 by 1 person

Tags: recipes, chocolate, cake
Categories: Recipes
Hearth  
8 Fireplace Safety Tips
By Jennifer Whipple
10/14/2014 4:37:00 PM  

Mantel

With the rising cost of fuel prices, you may be looking to your fireplace to help cut your home-heating bills. To make the most of your hearth, here are some tips for fireplace cleaning and fireplace maintenance that will help keep your fireplace working efficiently and, even more importantly, safely:

 

  1. Get the chimney in order. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that chimneys be swept at least once a year at the beginning of the winter to remove soot and debris. If you burn more than three cords of wood a year, you should have your chimney cleaned twice annually (a cord is 4'H x 8'L). In addition to cleaning, a chimney sweep will also inspect your chimney and chimney liner for cracks, loose bricks or missing mortar. (Find a certified sweep in your area through the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

    Ash-Vac

  2. Cap off the chimney. Install a chimney cap over the top of the chimney to keep out rain, snow, birds, squirrels and debris from entering the chimney. Repair a cap that is damaged or replace one that is missing.

    Chimney Cap

  3. Test your smoke alarms. If you don’t have smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in your home, install them near the fireplace and your bedroom areas. Be sure to change the batteries and test them regularly.

  4. Use a spark guard. Guard against flying embers and shooting sparks with a fireplace screen or spark guard. A guard in front of an open flame is especially important when the room is unoccupied. Fireplace screens and spark guards are also a great way to enhance your décor – read our tips on choosing the perfect fire screen and take a look at our entire selection of fireplace screens here.

    fireplace screen

  5. Keep the heat in. Be sure to close the damper when not using your fireplace to prevent warm indoor air from escaping through the chimney and raising your heating bill.

    Close Damper DiagramDiagram heat escaping fireplace
  6. Burn only dry, seasoned hardwoods. Use dry, dense hardwoods like oak or hickory that have been cured (i.e. split, stacked and dried for 6-12 months) as opposed to green, resinous softwoods (like pine or spruce) that result in more creosote buildup. Using the right wood will also help keep your fire going longer.

  7. Start small. A fire that’s too large can wind up cracking your chimney, so keep it small. Smaller fires also generate less smoke, which means less creosote buildup. To burn a fire safely, build it slowly, adding more wood as it heats. Keep the fireplace damper all the way open to increase draw in the early stages, and use kindling (like our popular Fatwood) to start the fire. Place the logs at the rear of the fireplace on a metal grate.

    kindling

  8. Burn only firewood. The fireplace might seem like a tempting place to dispose of crates, painted wood, scrap wood and lumber, but those treated woods will release chemicals into the air in your home, affecting your air quality.

 

With these simple guidelines for fireplace cleaning and fireplace maintenance, you’ll be ready to enjoy your fireplace burning brightly, efficiently and safely!

Fireplace

 


Currently rated 5 by 1 person

Tags: fireplace safety, fireplace cleaning, fireplace maintenance
Categories: Hearth
Holidays  
5 Tips for Planning a Halloween Party for Grownups
By Jennifer Whipple
10/6/2014 4:23:00 PM  

Halloween Sign

Why should the kids have all the fun? With its opportunity to play dress-up (and the nostalgic memories), grownups love Halloween, too! Check out our tips for throwing a monster bash geared toward adult partygoers.

 

  • Invitations. Get them out in plenty of time (no sooner than three weeks in advance). Be sure to let your guests know if they’re to wear costumes and, if so, if there’s a theme (classic movie monsters, historical figures, etc.).

    Tip: Online invitations are an easy way to send themed invites, and an easy way for your friends to RSVP.
Ghosts

 

  • Set the mood. Create a festive ambiance with orange-and-black crepe paper and balloons, and decorate with fake spiders, cobwebs, and creepy displays. Stock up on Fall or Halloween-themed paper plates, cups and napkins.

    Tip: Set up your DVD player or Blu-Ray to run classic thrillers with the sound off as a great way to add atmosphere to your spook fest! (skip the gore – think old, black-and-white versions of Frankenstein or Dracula).
Pumpkin Kittens

 

  • Music. Include a collection of upbeat, fun and spooky songs like “Monster Mash,” “Love Potion #9” and “Thriller.”

    Tip: While guests are still arriving, play a CD made up of creepy or funny sound effects, like doors creaking, wolves howling, and witches cackling.
skeleton

 

  • Costumes. Costumes are a must for Halloween parties! Hand out prizes for the funniest, scariest, most original and “best couple” costumes. Gift cards, bottles of “spirits” and “treats” are a great way to go.

    Tip: Have inexpensive masks on hand for guests who may have forgotten to wear a costume.
Pumpkin Arms

 

  • Food. Finger-food favorites are perfect for a fun and relaxed atmosphere! Offer your guests a cheese, cracker and fruit plate, mini-quiches, sausages, meatballs, raw veggies with dip and snacks such as popcorn and pretzels. Or you can warm up a chilly fall night with bowls of soup or chili that you can keep warm on a buffet table in a slow cooker. For dessert, offer pumpkin- or apple- based cakes, cookies, brownies or pies.

    Tip: Brew up a Halloween punch in a witch’s cauldron with dry ice at the bottom for a spooky fog effect.

Like the items pictured on this page? Shop these and more fun and easy decorating ideas in our Halloween collection!

Currently rated 4 by 1 person

Tags: Halloween, party, holidays, festive
Categories: Holidays
Pets  
Parker's Story
By Jennifer Whipple
8/12/2014 5:28:00 AM  

Parker

Parker thinks he’s a normal cat, says his “mom,” Jessica. Granted, he can’t carry his tail proudly in the air like most kitties, and it can’t be denied that his walk is a bit crooked. But he runs about and plays like most young cats, pounces on his favorite toys (catnip mice), teases his big “brother,” Captain (another ginger cat), loves to cuddle with his humans, and has a healthy appetite (too healthy, sometimes, Jessica admits).

A Photogenic Kitty


Parker is also a Plow & Hearth pet model.


You may have seen Parker in our catalog and on our web site over the past year, lounging around in our latest pet beds like the Kitten Caboodle Cat Bed Pouf (#53359), the Rattan Cat House (#53266) and the Waterproof Heated Outdoor Cat House (#52626), or snuggling into our Cozy Comfort Micro Velour Blankets (#93130). But he had a lot of healing to do before he was able to join the Plow & Hearth team as an employee.


parker


Rescued


A year ago this month, Parker was found hiding behind a woodpile in the parking lot outside our photo studio. Starving, dehydrated, riddled with worms and badly injured, the tiny kitten probably would not have lived through another day had the studio team not immediately rushed him to a nearby veterinary. Though not more than six weeks old by the veterinarian’s estimate, there was no sign of his family, nor any indication of how he might have managed to escape from the animal that apparently (going by the teeth marks in his little body) had picked him up and shaken him, leaving him with a hernia, broken rib, punctured liver and damaged spine.


“He was miserable, but desperate for help,” recalls Assistant Photographer Jessica. “When [Plow & Hearth Producer] Matt pulled him out of the wood pile and handed him off to me, Parker just clung to my shirt, crying. I knew right away that I wanted to adopt him.”


parker
Parker relaxing between takes.


A New Home


It was the best thing that could have happened to Parker (whose name was inspired by the parking lot in which he was found). Jessica’s fiancé, Hayes, works from a home office, so he was able to give Parker the frequent attention, feeding and treatment the kitten required after the surgery for his hernia and liver. Before long, Parker became strongly bonded to Hayes.


“It was like Parker imprinted on Hayes,” Jessica recalls with a smile.


Hayes also took Parker to most of his therapy sessions.


“The worst injury was the nerve damage to his spine,” Jessica explains “Every single disc had scar tissue, and he had to go through six months of acupuncture and laser therapy treatments.”


 parker
Parker patiently sits through an accupuncture treatment.


Improved Health and a New Career


As Parker underwent treatment, Jessica noticed that, while a little shy with strangers at first, he warmed up to them very quickly. Additionally, he was good-natured, patient and cooperative – qualities that make pets successful models. As his health improved, she decided to try bringing him along on photo shoots where a cat was required.


Good cat models are hard to find: being cute and photogenic (Parker is both!) is not enough. Many cats become uneasy in a strange environment and won’t stay in the beds or cat houses they’re meant to be trying out; others are happy to investigate the products, but get curious when they see the camera pointed at them and break the pose so they can investigate before the shot is taken. Perhaps it’s because he’s received so much care and handling from the humans in his life, but Parker willingly takes direction and stays put (mostly) for photos, making him an ideal pet model.


“He travels so well in the car,” Jessica says. “He doesn’t even need to stay in the carrier during short trips. And he’s very relaxed on-set. Also, he’s very small, which helps.”


parker
Career Kitty: Parker shows off one of Plow & Hearth's pet beds.


Star Quality


Small he is – at only five pounds, Parker is undersized for his age. His veterinarian thinks his growth was stunted from all he's been through. But what he lacks in size, he more than makes up for in personality. And unlike many models, he hasn’t let all the attention from his new career go to his head!


“He’s really sweet and cuddly, always sleeps on the bed with us,” Jessica shares. “Very chatty and talkative, and he looks you right in your eyes when he’s talking to you!


“He even ‘talks’ to the birds through the window,” Jessica adds with a laugh. “He’s an indoor-only cat, and sitting and watching the birds is one of his favorite activities.”


And though his body may be small, his appetite certainly isn’t.


“We have to watch his food intake carefully because his system is so sensitive, and he hates it,” Jessica says. “He gets one treat daily, and I think that’s the highlight of his day!”


Follow Parker!


Want to keep up with Parker? “Like” us on Facebook to see more photos, keep checking our blog for updates, and follow him on Twitter. Parker also appears (along with some other four-footed friends) on the Plow Pets board on our Pinterest page. For a closer look at Parker’s 5-purr products, follow the links above.


parker
Parker (left) with big brother Captain.

Thinking of adopting a pet? Consider one with “special needs” – they need a home, too, and have a lot of love to give. Jessica says that Parker makes all the effort of taking care of him well worth it!


Currently rated 4.6 by 14 people

Tags: Parker's Picks, Parker the Plow Cat, Plow Pets, Parker the Cat, Pet Model
Categories: Pets
Outdoor Living  
How to Keep Bugs Away, Naturally!
By Jennifer Whipple
7/16/2014 9:00:00 AM  
How to Keep Bugs Away, Naturally! | Blog | Plow & Hearth

Pesky insects can put a damper on summer fun, but you can keep them under control without exposing your family, pets and the environment to harmful chemicals. Here are some tips for quelling three of the most common pests with effective, all-natural remedies.

 

Wipe Out Wasps For Good

eco friendly pest control 

Wasps are very territorial about their nests, but your mom was right – if you leave them alone, they’ll usually leave you alone. Unless they’re nesting near or on your home or in other high-traffic areas, it’s a good idea to do just that because they’re a beneficial bug that preys on other insects. Take a few tips on how to co-exist peacefully with wasps:

 

• Keep wasps out of your home. Prevent wasps from building a nest in or on your home by sealing off the places they can get in. Repair torn screens, seal cracks around windows and doors and cover unsealed vents to keep the critters out. If you suspect they’ve already invaded but aren’t sure where, follow their flight path to discover their point of entry.

 

• Keep food under wraps outdoors. This applies to anything a wasp would consider food. Wasps remember where they’ve found food and will keep checking back, so don’t provide any temptation for them if you can avoid it.  When dining out on the patio, keep your food covered and put it away as soon as you’re done. If you have fruit trees, don’t leave the fallen fruit on the ground. Use lids or covers on your trash cans and compost heaps, and don’t leave food out for your pet. Take extra care when drinking canned beverages outdoors or you may find a nasty surprise has gotten into it!

 

• Walk away from a hovering wasp. It might be tempting to swat a hovering wasp, but crushing them releases a pheromone scent that attracts and agitates other wasps, encouraging them to swarm. If a wasp is hovering nearby, a tactical retreat is usually the best option.

 

• Don’t use perfume or wear brightly colored clothing when spending a lot of time outdoors. Hawaiian shirts look great at a luau, but looking and smelling like a big flower has its drawbacks! Like bees, wasps feed on nectar, so avoid hues and scents that they’ll find appetizing.

 

Eliminate Mosquitoes

Multifunctional Bug-Repelling Wrap


Early mornings and evenings are popular times for relaxing on the porch or patio – unfortunately, these are also the times when mosquitoes are out for blood. In addition to the many effective, all-natural traps and repellents now available, here are some quick, cost-effective and all-natural fixes you can do yourself:

 

Set up mosquito traps. There are mosquito traps that lure insects with heat and light (instead of chemicals) and cover a wide area. Some run on propane, some are electric, some are gas-powered. Make sure they’re up and running and doing their job before you head outdoors.

 

• Change the water in your birdbath, pet’s dish or child’s wading pool regularly. Mosquitoes are attracted to standing water sources, so be sure to change the water in your birdbath or child’s wading pool at least twice a week to keep the population down. Make sure your pet has fresh water at least twice a day, and keep your rain gutters clear so they drain properly. Keep an eye out for – and remove – items in your yard or garden that collect water.

 

“Fan” yourself. Use an electric fan outdoors? Believe it or not, it actually works – mosquitoes are hampered by a breeze, which is why they tend to seek pockets of still air in which to congregate. When dining on the porch or patio, aim a pedestal fan at the picnic table, or a small fan at your deck chair. You’ll not only blow the pests away – you’ll enjoy a nice breeze, too!

 

• Ward them off. We’re not sure about vampires, but it’s a proven fact that garlic makes an effective mosquito repellent. Cool! Mix one part garlic juice with five parts water, dip some cloth strips in the mixture and hang them around your outdoor sitting area for a localized deterrent. You can also tie the cloths around your wrists or ankles to prevent bites.

 

• Wear bug-repellent clothing. When hiking or camping, be sure to cover all exposed areas with long-sleeved shirts and long pants with snug cuffs. Hats and jackets with fine-mesh screens are a good idea, too.

 

• Spice things up. Using a charcoal grill? Toss a tablespoon or so of sage or rosemary on the coals to keep mosquitoes away (it smells great, too).

 

• Plant marigolds. The cheerful red, gold and orange flowers are not only pretty, hardy, easy to grow and tasty (try them in your salad!), they’re natural pest repellants, too!  Plant them in pots or borders along your porch or patio to deter flying insects. They’ll even keep aphids away from your vegetable garden!

 

Shoo Away Flies

 Recycled Metal Frog Sculpture With Fly And Mosquito Trap


These common household pests are more than a nuisance – they’re a health hazard. A single housefly can carry over one million bacteria. Take a few measures to control flies in your backyard and your home, and you'll be healthier for it.

 

• Outdoor dining. When setting a picnic or umbrella table for a meal, use a small bowl filled with sweet basil and clover as a centerpiece. Keep an open container of the mixture near your pet’s food dish, too.

 

• Make use of scented herbs and essential oils. Mint deters flies, is easy to grow and comes in many varieties. Harvest some of the fresh leaves, crush them, and tie them up in small squares of cheesecloth. Place these sachets around your outdoor sitting areas (as well as inside the house) to discourage flies from hanging around. Bay leaves and cloves work well, too. You can also add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a scrap of cloth and leave it in an area where flies are a problem.

 

• Stick ‘em up. Flypaper may not be pretty, but it works…to make your own, dip strips of brown paper in a mixture made from ¼ cup corn syrup, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Let the strips dry overnight, then hang them with thread around your porch or deck.

 

Tired of being bugged? Come see Plow & Hearth’s entire selection of Outdoor Problem Solvers!

Currently rated 0 by 0 people

Tags: Bug Control, Pest Control
Categories: Outdoor Living, Sustainability
Sustainability  
How to Keep Bugs Away, Naturally!
By Jennifer Whipple
7/16/2014 9:00:00 AM  
How to Keep Bugs Away, Naturally! | Blog | Plow & Hearth

Pesky insects can put a damper on summer fun, but you can keep them under control without exposing your family, pets and the environment to harmful chemicals. Here are some tips for quelling three of the most common pests with effective, all-natural remedies.

 

Wipe Out Wasps For Good

eco friendly pest control 

Wasps are very territorial about their nests, but your mom was right – if you leave them alone, they’ll usually leave you alone. Unless they’re nesting near or on your home or in other high-traffic areas, it’s a good idea to do just that because they’re a beneficial bug that preys on other insects. Take a few tips on how to co-exist peacefully with wasps:

 

• Keep wasps out of your home. Prevent wasps from building a nest in or on your home by sealing off the places they can get in. Repair torn screens, seal cracks around windows and doors and cover unsealed vents to keep the critters out. If you suspect they’ve already invaded but aren’t sure where, follow their flight path to discover their point of entry.

 

• Keep food under wraps outdoors. This applies to anything a wasp would consider food. Wasps remember where they’ve found food and will keep checking back, so don’t provide any temptation for them if you can avoid it.  When dining out on the patio, keep your food covered and put it away as soon as you’re done. If you have fruit trees, don’t leave the fallen fruit on the ground. Use lids or covers on your trash cans and compost heaps, and don’t leave food out for your pet. Take extra care when drinking canned beverages outdoors or you may find a nasty surprise has gotten into it!

 

• Walk away from a hovering wasp. It might be tempting to swat a hovering wasp, but crushing them releases a pheromone scent that attracts and agitates other wasps, encouraging them to swarm. If a wasp is hovering nearby, a tactical retreat is usually the best option.

 

• Don’t use perfume or wear brightly colored clothing when spending a lot of time outdoors. Hawaiian shirts look great at a luau, but looking and smelling like a big flower has its drawbacks! Like bees, wasps feed on nectar, so avoid hues and scents that they’ll find appetizing.

 

Eliminate Mosquitoes

Multifunctional Bug-Repelling Wrap


Early mornings and evenings are popular times for relaxing on the porch or patio – unfortunately, these are also the times when mosquitoes are out for blood. In addition to the many effective, all-natural traps and repellents now available, here are some quick, cost-effective and all-natural fixes you can do yourself:

 

Set up mosquito traps. There are mosquito traps that lure insects with heat and light (instead of chemicals) and cover a wide area. Some run on propane, some are electric, some are gas-powered. Make sure they’re up and running and doing their job before you head outdoors.

 

• Change the water in your birdbath, pet’s dish or child’s wading pool regularly. Mosquitoes are attracted to standing water sources, so be sure to change the water in your birdbath or child’s wading pool at least twice a week to keep the population down. Make sure your pet has fresh water at least twice a day, and keep your rain gutters clear so they drain properly. Keep an eye out for – and remove – items in your yard or garden that collect water.

 

“Fan” yourself. Use an electric fan outdoors? Believe it or not, it actually works – mosquitoes are hampered by a breeze, which is why they tend to seek pockets of still air in which to congregate. When dining on the porch or patio, aim a pedestal fan at the picnic table, or a small fan at your deck chair. You’ll not only blow the pests away – you’ll enjoy a nice breeze, too!

 

• Ward them off. We’re not sure about vampires, but it’s a proven fact that garlic makes an effective mosquito repellent. Cool! Mix one part garlic juice with five parts water, dip some cloth strips in the mixture and hang them around your outdoor sitting area for a localized deterrent. You can also tie the cloths around your wrists or ankles to prevent bites.

 

• Wear bug-repellent clothing. When hiking or camping, be sure to cover all exposed areas with long-sleeved shirts and long pants with snug cuffs. Hats and jackets with fine-mesh screens are a good idea, too.

 

• Spice things up. Using a charcoal grill? Toss a tablespoon or so of sage or rosemary on the coals to keep mosquitoes away (it smells great, too).

 

• Plant marigolds. The cheerful red, gold and orange flowers are not only pretty, hardy, easy to grow and tasty (try them in your salad!), they’re natural pest repellants, too!  Plant them in pots or borders along your porch or patio to deter flying insects. They’ll even keep aphids away from your vegetable garden!

 

Shoo Away Flies

 Recycled Metal Frog Sculpture With Fly And Mosquito Trap


These common household pests are more than a nuisance – they’re a health hazard. A single housefly can carry over one million bacteria. Take a few measures to control flies in your backyard and your home, and you'll be healthier for it.

 

• Outdoor dining. When setting a picnic or umbrella table for a meal, use a small bowl filled with sweet basil and clover as a centerpiece. Keep an open container of the mixture near your pet’s food dish, too.

 

• Make use of scented herbs and essential oils. Mint deters flies, is easy to grow and comes in many varieties. Harvest some of the fresh leaves, crush them, and tie them up in small squares of cheesecloth. Place these sachets around your outdoor sitting areas (as well as inside the house) to discourage flies from hanging around. Bay leaves and cloves work well, too. You can also add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a scrap of cloth and leave it in an area where flies are a problem.

 

• Stick ‘em up. Flypaper may not be pretty, but it works…to make your own, dip strips of brown paper in a mixture made from ¼ cup corn syrup, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Let the strips dry overnight, then hang them with thread around your porch or deck.

 

Tired of being bugged? Come see Plow & Hearth’s entire selection of Outdoor Problem Solvers!

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Tags: Bug Control, Pest Control
Categories: Outdoor Living, Sustainability
Sustainability  
Better World Betty 2014 Awards
By Jennifer Whipple
6/25/2014 10:27:00 AM  
Plow & Hearth took home the Grand Prize in the Large Business Category at the Charlottesville Area Better Business Challenge Awards last night! We were nominated in the categories: Kilowatt Crackdown, Biggest Loser, Green Leader and Top Innovator.

The Better Business Challenge is a friendly competition among businesses to incorporate sustainable practices in their day-to-day operations. Plow & Hearth wishes to thank the members of our Sustainability Committee for their hard work in making our company more eco-friendly and helping us to adopt more sustainability practices.

Charlottesville Area Better Business Challenge Awards

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Tags: awards, sustainability, about Plow & Hearth, company news, Plow & Hearth family
Categories: Sustainability
Outdoor Living  
Plan Your Perfect Deck or Patio
By Jennifer Whipple
6/1/2014 10:00:00 AM  

Jeff Wilson, host of DIY Network's "Build-a-Deck"Looking to revitalize your deck or patio? HGTV/DIY Networks host and spokesperson for the Thompson's® Water Seal® brand Jeff Wilson has good news: with a just a little thought and planning, you can turn a tired old deck into the deck of your dreams…and you don’t need a lot of space to do it.

With over 25 years of home building and remodeling experience, Jeff shares the ideas and tips that he and his wife used to redesign and build their own deck and patio.

 

Know what you want.

 

When Jeff and his wife, Sherri, bought their Ohio home in 2001, they knew the deck would have to change.

 

“The deck was built around 1980, back when the deck trend really got started,” Jeff explained. “At that time, people didn’t treat their decks. This one had been painted a glaring white that was peeling at the time we moved in…and with the sun shining on it, it was way too bright.”

 

Additionally, the existing deck was very narrow.

 

“There was no room for a table or anything,” Jeff recalled. “You could line people up in chairs side-by-side, facing out into the yard, but they couldn’t sit across from each other and converse.”

 

Put thought into the project.

 

Jeff and his wife put a lot of thought into what they wanted from their deck – something he feels should be a part of every renovation.

 

“Ask yourself, ‘how will we use the space?” Jeff says. “Knowing what you want – a place to entertain or an outdoor sanctuary – is paramount.”

 

Like many homes built in the 1940s, Jeff and Sherri’s house is quite small. With two children and a fondness for entertaining, they decided their deck should provide the extra space they needed and wanted both for relaxing and entertaining. They carefully planned an outdoor space that combined both functions by separating the outdoor space like they did their indoor spaces, with different areas reserved for specific activities: conversation, dining, cooking, gardening, etc.

 

“Size it to the function.”

When planning the size of their new deck, Jeff and his wife laid garden hoses along the ground and arranged their outdoor furniture within the lines they made before committing to a plan.

 

“We knew we wanted to be able to do a lot with our deck, but we also knew we didn’t want it eating up the entire yard, so planning how we’d use the space was essential,” he says.

 

Jeff observed that some homeowners feel that “bigger is better” when it comes to planning a deck. He disagrees.

 

“Whatever material you use – be it flagstone or wood – needs to be maintained, so the larger the surface area, the greater the expense. Our new deck wound up being about 400 square feet all told, and only ten feet wide off the back of the house. That’s okay – the size isn’t nearly as important as the functionality.”

 

And with a smaller deck surface area, Jeff and Sherri were able to spend more on better materials.

 

“We went with cedar boards instead of treated lumber. Cedar is not only prettier and tougher than pine, it’s better when you have kids because it’s not been treated with chemicals.”

 

He also points out that, because he saved so much on deck materials, he was able to afford a higher end grill with a side burner. And with the materials left over, he was able to install a potting table with a roof that could double as a buffet.

 
Jeff's deck before the renovation.Jeff's deck before the renovation.

The finished product.

 

The end result of Jeff and Sherri’s project is an outdoor space that combines a screened-in porch at one end, a dining area and an outdoor kitchen with a brick oven that doubles as an outdoor fireplace in the middle, and a potting bench/buffet at the far end. The space is also made up of different levels with a flagstone floor that ties it all together.

 

“Every little part of the deck has a function,” Jeff explains, “and we can change it around if we need to.”

 

Get creative!

 

Jeff encourages homeowners to get creative with their decks.

 

“Over the years, outdoor living has evolved. We now seek to bring our indoors outside, seeing features formerly reserved for the interior of a home – such as televisions and gas fireplaces – as ways to enhance our outdoor spaces. You may want things that are different than what we wanted, but that’s all right – the sky’s the limit. Don’t be afraid to get creative and use your imagination. And you can do it without breaking the bank.”


Jeff's deck after the renovation.

Jeff's deck after the renovation.


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