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Hearth  
10/14/2014 4:37:00 PM  



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.



  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.



  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.



  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.

  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.



  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!

 


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Holidays  
10/6/2014 4:23:00 PM  



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.

 

  • 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).

 

  • 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.

 

  • 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.

 

  • 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!

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Promotions  
10/1/2014 12:00:00 PM  


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Madison, VA

Plow & Hearth’s Tent Sale has a new twist for Fall. For the first time ever, the trusted local retailer will hold its October Tent Sale October 3-5 at both their Outlet and Country Store locations in Madison as a Fall Festival. The festival will include a pumpkin patch where customers may purchase their own pumpkins; cornhole and other games; cider tastings; and gourmet food tastings including their latest fall introductions.

 

Music will be provided Saturday, October 4 from noon to 3pm by Bud’s Collective, a bluegrass-inspired band that plays a mix of originals and favorite hits.

 

This will be the biggest tent sale in the company’s history, with both stores offering sale pricing and discounts. Customers can enjoy up to 70% off regular prices at the Outlet and special event savings at the Country Store.

 

General Information:

Plow & Hearth Outlet & Country Store

Tent Sale & Fall Festival

Route 29 South

Madison, VA

540.948.5412

Monday – Saturday 9-6; Sunday 9-5

 

Visit Plow and Hearth at http://www.plowhearth.com/

 


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Health & Fitness  
9/23/2014 1:09:00 PM  

The Harvest Season is on it’s way!


It’s always important to choose produce that’s in season so you get the maximum amount of nutrients. See below for some must-have healthy FALL FRUITS & VEGGIES!


Pumpkin

Pumpkin is full of nutrients that can benefit the body. It contains fiber, vitamin A, potassium and vitamin C. Don’t throw away the seeds! They are full of zinc, magnesium, protein and iron. The nutrients in pumpkin can aid with digestion, immunity and eye health. Not only that, zinc has been known to aid with taste changes, which patients receiving cancer treatment may experience.

Butternut Squash

This hourglass fall staple is full of fiber and vitamin A. It is rich in folate, too. If that’s not enough, because of its high antioxidant content, butternut squash has anti-inflammatory effects. Reducing inflammation in the body has been known to reduce the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even cancer.

Sweet Potatoes

Why use sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes, you ask? We know white potatoes are a more traditional side, but sweet potatoes are a WAY better option. These orange spuds have a low glycemic index, which means they won’t cause your blood sugar to spike. They’re rich in and beta-carotene, which can prevent vitamin A deficiencies, promote healthy eyesight and generate retinol production. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin C, and when baked in their skin can pack nearly 5 grams of fiber.

Apples

Last, but not least, are apples. Though apples are available during the whole year, they are even sweeter and cheaper in the fall. Why should you eat them? Three words: fiber, fiber, fiber. Fiber can aid with digestive health, blood sugar control and heart health by reducing inflammation and cholesterol levels.

HEALTHY TIP: Traditional dishes made with these foods include a great deal of sugar, butter or cream–even though these fruits and vegetables are naturally full of sweet and savory flavors. Try using recipe replacements for the high-fat, high-sugar additives. Consider using plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, applesauce instead of oil in sweet breads, and half-and-half or evaporated skim milk instead of heavy whipping cream.

-Your Plow & He♥rt Fitness Team


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Hearth  
9/12/2014 9:10:00 AM  




The warm glimmer of a blazing fireplace inspires cozy holiday bliss in all of us. Even crooning Christmas legends have roasted chestnuts and hung stockings around the fire in beloved verse.

 

Nonetheless, while a toasty fire presents a practical way to warm up the wintertime chill, a neglected fireplace may spark a flame you can’t control. When soot condenses from continuous use, a highly combustible substance called creosote accumulates, leaving you one match away from a house fire.

 

Thus, to maintain a safe domestic blaze, let’s prepare for some holiday hearth action with an annual cleaning. As the hearth is the center of your home, protect your haven with these easy steps.

 

You will need:

  • Hearth Utility Gloves
  • Newspaper/tarp
  • Trash bags
  • Shovel and ash bucket
  • Chimney Sweep Brush
  • Bucket of warm water
  • Scrubber
  • Detergent (optional)
  • Ash vac (optional)

 

1. Manage the mayhem

 

First thing’s first. Has it been one day? For this undertaking, it’s important that you wait 24 hours since the last lit fire.

 

Slip on our exclusive suede hearth utility gloves and make sure you’re dressed for the occasion – old clothing is great for fireplace cleaning.

 

Place newspaper or tarp on the fireplace floor to catch the soot and cover close furniture with old sheets or cloth. Trash bags are also helpful to have nearby to dispose of waste.

 

2. Detection Perfection

 

Open the flue and peer into your chimney. With a little skylight, you can inspect soot and possibly metallic hardened deposits of creosote. Let’s get to work!

 

3. Brush, Brush and Away!

 

Begin by using your handy dandy shovel to remove ashes and debris piled in the fireplace.

 

Next, take a chimney sweep brush and brush away! Our round poly brushes do a thorough job without scratching up the flue. Pair with a fiberglass extension rod and make sure to brush each wall top to bottom. Shovel the ashes into a pan and dump the wreckage into your standby trash bags or a sturdy ash bucket or scuttle.

 

Next, take a scrubber brush and a bucket of warm water and begin a deep cleansing. To make it more effective, add a squirt or two of detergent in the pale. Rinse with a sponge and wipe dry with an old towel.

 

4. Throw it in the bag!

 

Pick up your protective newspaper or tarp, full of soot and deposits, and throw it in the bag! The trash bag, obviously. Relax while the walls dry and savor that awesome feeling of do-it-yourself accomplishment. Close the flue and we’re back in business!

 

Success!

 

Now, you’re ready to rekindle another winter of yuletide bliss before the fireplace.  Who needs lengthy footage of a burning log? You’ve got your own safe, efficient, slow-burning beauty at the ready.

 

For maximum ease and efficiency in cleaning your fireplace, visit our Fireplace Cleaning & Maintenance collection.


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Inside The Home  
9/3/2014 9:06:00 AM  

Braided Rugs, History In The Making

Crafting a quality braided rug is an art form and a uniquely American one at that. The tradition of handmade braided rugs started in New England during the Colonial period and continues today with family-owned Rhody Rug, Inc. in Providence, Rhode Island.

 

Rhody Rug President Ronnie Agrela is a first generation Portuguese immigrant, who came to America at age 14. Owner of Rhody Rug since 1987, Ronnie has been in the rug-making business for 47 years, and he has a combined 75 years experience with his company’s CFO, brother-in-law Manny Martins.

 

Both Ronnie and Manny are involved in all levels of the family business. Their enthusiasm for rug making and lifelong dedication to the craft are evident in all aspects from design, manufacturing and quality control to inventory management and fulfillment.

 

Rhody Rug and Plow & Hearth have a long history of solid partnership, dating back to the 1990s. Rhody Rug creates unique designs and color combinations exclusively for Plow & Hearth and is a recipient of our Vendor of the Year Award.

 

It’s What’s Inside That Counts: Hallmarks Of A Quality Braid

“All stuff and no fluff” is Ronnie’s motto. When it comes to braided rugs, Rhody Rug true flat braids are superior to their flimsy tubular counterparts, which often feature shoddy fibers, paper cores and more filler than surface yarns.

 

Rhody Rug true flat braids feature a knit tube inner that forms a cushion within the braid, offering longevity, softness underfoot and flexibility without distortion. The rugs lay flat and don’t curl. Their seamless construction ensures no weak spots.

 

Rhody Rug hand-stitches their rugs together with Clearlon® T-50, a high-quality nylon monofilament thread that exceeds industry standards and offers exceptional strength and durability.

 

Rhody Rug braids have a real heft and fullness to them. You can see and feel the difference in their quality construction and materials.

 

Made in America, Down To The Last Thread

Every Rhody Rug is 100% American made. All materials – every thread and fiber – are sourced from American suppliers and manufacturers. Each braided rug is quality-crafted in the Rhode Island facility. With just 20 employees in the family-run business, Ronnie and Manny are often seen crafting the rugs themselves.

 

Rhody Rug is truly a hands-on company and a real American success story. Ronnie, Manny and their entire team take great pride in the tradition of braided rugs and it’s evident in every rug they make.

 

Find the perfect Rhody Rug for your home – shop our collection of Braided Rugs and coordinating Chair Pads and Stair Treads.

 

Learn why you can’t go wrong with a Rhody Rug – watch our video to see why these rugs are so great!


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Gardening  
9/2/2014 10:32:00 AM  

Fall is coming…time to think about Fall garden chores! Here are some timely tips for preparing your yard and garden for the cold months ahead and making spring cleanup easier.

 

 

Prune back trees and plants.

 

Trim off dead branches and spent blossoms from your perennials, keeping in mind that some seed pods and ornamental grasses add interest to the Winter garden. Save any leftover seeds from some plants (like coreopsis, Jefferson bean and sunflowers) to plant in the garden next year.

 

 

Tend the vegetable garden.

 

The fresh veggies don’t have to stop with summer – in addition to winter squash, late summer is a great time to sow seeds for a Fall crop of greens (like spinach and lettuces). A cold frame or row covers help extend the growing season.

 

To keep bugs and other pests from hibernating in your vegetable garden, be sure to clear away all dead plants (you can use them for compost) and remove all yard debris once you’re done harvesting. Check in and around the garden for the tan egg cases of gypsy moths and destroy them. Any diseased or pest-ridden plants should be burned. Amend and improve vegetable garden soil with compost and organic fertilizers. While you’re doing this, you can plan out your garden for the following growing season, keeping in mind what plants performed well and what might benefit from a change.

 

 

Dig up annuals and summer bulbs.

 

Dig up summer annuals and use them to nourish the compost heap. You should also dig up your summer bulbs and store them in peat moss for the winter.

 

 

Get planting.

 

Yes, you can plant in the Fall! To ensure colorful springtime blooms, it’s best to plant bulbs in the Fall, before the earth freezes (usually in mid-October, though tulips can be planted as late as November). Looking for color before spring? Try planting cold-hardy annuals like ornamental kale, pansies and chrysanthemums.

 

 

Cut back and divide perennials.

 

Early Fall is a good time to divide and transplant perennials (like irises and peonies), trees and shrubs if they haven’t been flourishing in their current location, giving them time to establish themselves and allow their roots to develop before the ground freezes. Be sure to keep them well watered until the first freeze.

 

 

Bring container plants indoors.

 

“Winter over” container plants in the garage or basement. Remove dead leaves and break up any hardened soil before bringing them inside for storage in a garage, mudroom or basement.

 

 

Provide protection for plants that are sensitive to cold.

 

Once the ground freezes, cover shrubs, roses, and tender perennials that might succumb to frigid temperatures with a good layer of mulch. You can also use screens or covers to protect these plants.

 

 

Gather fallen leaves.

 

Don’t let fallen leaves stay on your lawn all winter – left unattended, they’ll suffocate grass and other plants. You don’t need to let them go to waste…shredded leaves make great mulch.

 

 

Mow the lawn and feed it.

 

It grows more slowly in the fall, but do cut the grass before winter sets in. Be sure to lower the lawn mower and cut it short to help it dry out more quickly in the spring. Follow up that last cutting with a feeding – the extra nutrients will help it survive through the winter.

 

 

Find more ways to make Outdoor Fall Cleanup easier!


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Outdoor Living  
8/27/2014 10:51:00 AM  

Looking for the right lighting for your landscape? Solar lights offer many advantages over other types of outdoor lights. Solar lighting requires no wiring or cords, which means installation is quick and easy. Plus, solar lights are an eco-friendly, energy-saving option because they capture the sun’s energy by day to brighten your home’s exterior at night. Here are some great ideas for adding beauty and security to your home with minimal effort!


 

A Fairy Solution

 

Here at Plow & Hearth, we’re big fans of glittering fairies and woodland folk! Their resin wings and miniature homes fill our virtual shop and catalog pages. What’s the most flutter-ful thing about them, you ask?

 

The magical ability to light their way through our gardens, of course!

 

Luminescent fairy wings in flight make such a beautiful sight that we’re inspired to mimic their magic with string lights and hanging ornaments.

 

Have you been searching for the radiant romance of hanging lights and lanterns at dawn or the airy atmosphere of a faintly lit garden, fit for fairies? Or perhaps you’re seeking the security of a bright walkway, ensuring no late night homecoming goes unlit? These solar solutions have it covered, with or without the aid of wing-ed friends!

 

Harnessing Sunlight: What’s inside?

 

No access to shimmering stardust? No worries, the mechanics are fairly simple. Leave your lights to bathe in sunny rays during the daytime and the solar panels, found on the crown or side of your model, will store up energy. Your lights will ignite as sunlight fades and last for about four hours at a time. 

 

While solar lights seem to work like magic, the actual chemistry is equally compelling. Each light contains either nickel cadmium (NiCD) or nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries wired to solar cells that convert sunlight directly into energy. In many cases, this energy powers an efficient light-emitting diode, or LED bulb. Leave them outside all year long!

 

Enchanting fairy lights, path lights, or lanterns are must-haves for any outdoor celestial haven. But don’t limit yourself to hardwired systems for landscape lighting in the process of creating the magic! There are so many eco-friendly and efficient solar lighting options to try.

 

Wireless and convenient, decorative solar garden lighting makes the perfect light and design solution to any outdoor entertainment or dining dilemma.

 

Shine Bright Like A Fairy

 

Brighter isn’t always better! Compared to conventional models, solar landscape lighting emits a softer ethereal glow to sustain light longer into the evening. The blaze won’t match that of traditional low-voltage lights, but these handy units conserve energy, light, and of course, your bill.

 

Long-lasting LED lights are the most common landscape light bulb, emitting a muted shine sufficient for solar security lighting along steps and pathways. Halogen or florescent solar lights burn brighter, but won’t last as long.

 

Like all of nature’s wonders, these lights are at the mercy of the sun. On winter or overcast days, cells will generate less power for the batteries to store. Nevertheless, on bright days that fade into clear dreamy nights perfect for entertaining, your solar lights will power through with abiding elfin spirit!

 

The Brilliant Benefits

 

Minimal maintenance and lack of a light switch are huge advantages to having solar outdoor entertaining lighting and security bulbs. Regularly wipe down the panels with a barely damp cloth and you’re set. The battery only needs to be replaced every two years!

 

Photo sensors and motion sensors maintain the magic, allowing you to watch your lights turn on from afar or catch the occasional nymph tiptoeing by. But if you’d rather dispel the magic for a while, some models come with a manual switch.

 

Subtly designed installations are one of many recent design advances in the solar landscape world. These days, you can place solar lights along in-ground walkways, float them in pools, or place them inside for decorative accents. Weatherproof technology even allows you to mount panels outside to give your shed, closet, or barn some fairy rustic mood lighting!

 

Twinkle to your heart’s content!

 

From the twinkling glow of rustic string lights and hanging orbs to the firefly effect of fairy lights in mason jars and color changing mobiles, solar lights bring unexpected brilliance your yard! Even classically designed practical and security lighting provide a serene ambience to skirt your pathways.

 

Borrow a little solar stardust to sprinkle above the garden and along the courtyard. You may just mesmerize even your enchanted woodland friends!

Shop our entire Solar Lighting collection!


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Health & Fitness  
8/23/2014 12:04:00 PM  

Healthy Lifestyle Tip: Exercise is Key to Good Sleep

 

Exercise can affect your sleep. "Exercise is great for sleep. For the millions of people who want better sleep, exercise may help," says David Cloud, CEO, National Sleep Foundation.

 

Self-described exercisers report better sleep than self-described non-exercisers even though they say they sleep the same amount each night (6 hours and 51 minutes, average on weeknights). Vigorous, moderate, and light exercisers are significantly more likely to say "I had a good night's sleep" every night or almost every night on work nights than non-exercisers.

 

"If you are inactive, adding a 10 minute walk every day could improve your likelihood of a good night's sleep," says Max Hirshkowitz, Ph.D., poll task force chair. "Making this small change and gradually working your way up to more intense activities like running or swimming could help you sleep better."

 

Those who report exercising close to bedtime and earlier in the day do not demonstrate a difference in self-reported sleep quality. In fact, for most people exercise at any time seems to be better for sleep than no exercise at all.

 

"Exercise is beneficial to sleep. It's time to put exercise – any time – at the top of our list for healthy sleep habits," says Dr. Barbara Phillips, poll task force member.

 

We wish you an active, healthy week with some good rest!

 

-Your Plow & He♥rt Fitness Team


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Health & Fitness  
8/16/2014 10:30:00 AM  




Developed to be protective and add traction, running/walking shoes have  evolved to incorporate lightweight materials that cushion the foot from the trauma of walking or running. Most cushioning comes from EVA foam, a lightweight material injected with air cells designed to absorb impact.

 

But, like all good things, the foam eventually loses its magic, that can happen anywhere from 300 to 500 miles after the first wear. For a runner/walker doing five 3-mile runs or walks per week, that comes out to a new pair every five to six months. (Let’s hope Santa comes twice this year!).

 

“According to some researchers, running/walking shoes should be replaced anywhere from 300 to 500 miles after the first wear.”

 

Why rush to pick up a new pair? Once that foam wears out, the risk of overuse injuries increases, because the material has lost its ability to absorb shock. While some overuse injuries (like shin splints are minor, others (like tendinitis) might require more serious treatment. One good way to avoid these issues: Regularly trading in your old shoes for new kicks.

 

Your Action Plan

Why do experts give such a big range for the appropriate time to replace old sneaks? Every runner/walker has a different weight and foot strike, both of which affect the cushioning of shoes in various ways (For instance, a heavier runner/walker who runs or walks on their heels may wear out the shoe cushioning faster than a light runner/walker who runs or walks on their toes.). To eliminate all those miles of guesswork, here are some quick signs that those running/walking shoes need to be replaced:

 

  1. Try the press test. Press a thumb into the center of the shoe, where the midsole is. If the midsole feels tough and unyielding (rather than cushy with some "give"), then it may be time for a new pair
  2.  Look for signs of creasing in the sole. Look at the midsole, then use your thumb to press on the outsole into the midsole. When the midsole shows heavy compression lines before you press into it, and doesn't compress much when you press into it, that's a sign that the cushioning is pretty much worn out.
  3. Pay attention to aches and pains. While some say pain is weakness leaving the body, others say it’s an indication that something is wrong. A little twinge at the bottom of a foot could be your body's way of saying that a shoe is past its prime.
  4. Compare new shoes with old ones. Trying on an old pair of shoes immediately before trying on a new pair gives runners/walkers a direct comparison of which feels better. Once an old pair of shoes stops feeling comfortable, it may be time to change it out. 

-Your Plow & He♥rt Fitness Team



Shop all Footwear at Plow & Hearth.


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Pets  
8/12/2014 5:28:00 AM  



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.

 

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 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 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.”


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 (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!


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Health & Fitness  
8/4/2014 11:04:00 AM  

This summer, millions of Americans will take to the roads. If you’re one of them you may think that means hours with nothing to munch on but convenience store staples like chips and cookies. Not anymore! While convenience stores still have their fair share of not-so-good eats, many now stock a surprising selection of healthy choices. Next time you stop to refuel, test drive these light snacks:

1. Whole grain cereal cups
Why start your day with a donut when you can get wholesome whole grain cereal? You may need to dig through the cereal display to find it, but it’s there. Just be sure to read the label, as some varieties are more healthful than others. Look for brands that supply at least 4 grams of fiber and about 160 calories per cup (Cheerios are a safe bet that are almost always available). Mix with low-fat yogurt and a banana and you’ve got a wholesome breakfast you can take along for the drive.  


2. Energy bars
Energy bars make a savvy snack to have on hand for times when you’re stuck in traffic and your stomach starts to growl. Yet they’re not all created equally. Many are low in fiber, high in calories and loaded with sugar. For maximum hunger control, aim for bars with a combo of at least 5 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein and fewer than 170 calories such as Kellogg’s Special K Protein Meal Bar or Kashi Go Lean Protein & Fiber Bar.



3. Peanuts in the shell
Packed with vitamin E and monounsaturated fat, peanuts are a heart-healthy snack. But, if you’re not careful it’s easy to wolf down several servings before you know it. Enter in-shell peanuts. Shelling your own peanuts automatically slows you down, so you’ll be less likely to eat too many. About ½ cup supplies 7 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and 20% of your daily vitamin E for a respectable 160 calories.  

4. Low-fat yogurt
When you crave something cool and creamy, head to the refrigerator case instead of the ice cream case. There you’ll find low-fat yogurt (some stores even stock organic varieties). It will satisfy your taste buds while also delivering on the nutritional front. For about 140 calories or less, you’ll get one-quarter of your daily calcium and as much protein as you’d get from a large egg. Look on the label and you’ll see many brands are now fortified with vitamin D as well.  



5. V8 100% vegetable juice

Squeezing in your 9 daily servings of produce when you’re on the road can be a major challenge. While fresh is best, it isn’t always possible. That’s when 100% veggie juice can help. One 12-ounce bottle provides the equivalent of 3 servings of vegetables for just 70 calories. It’s packed with vitamins A and C, heart-healthy potassium, and lycopene, a phytochemical cousin of beta-carotene. Each bottle also offers 3 grams of filling fiber.  

6. Trail mix
Put down the peanut M&Ms and reach for a bag of trail mix instead. Its dried fruit and nuts provide the perfect mix of sweet, salty and crunchy - but with a healthful twist. You’ll not only slash fat and calories, you’ll get half the saturated fat you’d find in chocolate bars or M&Ms. Be sure to keep an eye on portions. Even though it’s good for you, trail mix is high in calories. Three tablespoons supply 140 calories and 9 grams of fat.

7. Single serve bags of baby carrots
You no longer need to stumble across a roadside stand to get your fill of fresh veggies. Conveniently packaged single-serve bags of baby carrots make it easy to sneak in a serving of produce. Precut, prewashed and easily portable, they make a smart alternative to other bagged snacks. One 2¼ ounce bag delivers 90 percent of your daily dose of vitamin A and 2 grams of fiber for only 25 calories.  

8. Fresh fruit cup
Stores like 7-Eleven are making it easier for you to get your fruit fix. Now instead of gravitating toward the snack aisle, check out the fresh food case. There you’ll find juicy fruit cups made from pre-cut cantaloupe, honeydew, and grapes. Not only are they a calorie bargain, they’re rich in fiber and also supply healthful antioxidants like vitamins A and C and beta-carotene. They’re filling too. One 8-oz container provides roughly 2 servings of fruit for only about 100 calories. If you can’t find fresh cut fruit, look for fruit packed in water or extra-light syrup.  



9. Part skim string cheese sticks

It’s hard to squeeze in your 3 daily servings of dairy when you’re cooped up in the car all day. Calcium-rich snacks like string cheese can help. Grab a couple of these and you’ll get as much calcium as you would from a glass of milk. What’s more, their protein (one piece supplies 7 grams) helps you focus and stay alert behind the wheel. For a balanced snack, pair them with a bag of baby carrots.

10. Bananas
Most convenience stores offer single pieces of fresh fruit like bananas, oranges and apples year round. You don't have to look far to find them either—they are usually at the front of the store next to the cash register. If you don't want to worry about washing an apple or trying to peel an orange while driving, reach for a banana. This sweet fruit is packaged in its own skin for easy clean up and nonsticky fingers. Bananas are a potassium powerhouse, delivering energy to help keep you going on that long drive.  


Happy Travels!
-Your Plow & Hert Fitness Team


Currently rated 0 by 0 people

Travel  
8/4/2014 11:04:00 AM  

This summer, millions of Americans will take to the roads. If you’re one of them you may think that means hours with nothing to munch on but convenience store staples like chips and cookies. Not anymore! While convenience stores still have their fair share of not-so-good eats, many now stock a surprising selection of healthy choices. Next time you stop to refuel, test drive these light snacks:

1. Whole grain cereal cups
Why start your day with a donut when you can get wholesome whole grain cereal? You may need to dig through the cereal display to find it, but it’s there. Just be sure to read the label, as some varieties are more healthful than others. Look for brands that supply at least 4 grams of fiber and about 160 calories per cup (Cheerios are a safe bet that are almost always available). Mix with low-fat yogurt and a banana and you’ve got a wholesome breakfast you can take along for the drive.  


2. Energy bars
Energy bars make a savvy snack to have on hand for times when you’re stuck in traffic and your stomach starts to growl. Yet they’re not all created equally. Many are low in fiber, high in calories and loaded with sugar. For maximum hunger control, aim for bars with a combo of at least 5 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein and fewer than 170 calories such as Kellogg’s Special K Protein Meal Bar or Kashi Go Lean Protein & Fiber Bar.



3. Peanuts in the shell
Packed with vitamin E and monounsaturated fat, peanuts are a heart-healthy snack. But, if you’re not careful it’s easy to wolf down several servings before you know it. Enter in-shell peanuts. Shelling your own peanuts automatically slows you down, so you’ll be less likely to eat too many. About ½ cup supplies 7 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and 20% of your daily vitamin E for a respectable 160 calories.  

4. Low-fat yogurt
When you crave something cool and creamy, head to the refrigerator case instead of the ice cream case. There you’ll find low-fat yogurt (some stores even stock organic varieties). It will satisfy your taste buds while also delivering on the nutritional front. For about 140 calories or less, you’ll get one-quarter of your daily calcium and as much protein as you’d get from a large egg. Look on the label and you’ll see many brands are now fortified with vitamin D as well.  



5. V8 100% vegetable juice

Squeezing in your 9 daily servings of produce when you’re on the road can be a major challenge. While fresh is best, it isn’t always possible. That’s when 100% veggie juice can help. One 12-ounce bottle provides the equivalent of 3 servings of vegetables for just 70 calories. It’s packed with vitamins A and C, heart-healthy potassium, and lycopene, a phytochemical cousin of beta-carotene. Each bottle also offers 3 grams of filling fiber.  

6. Trail mix
Put down the peanut M&Ms and reach for a bag of trail mix instead. Its dried fruit and nuts provide the perfect mix of sweet, salty and crunchy - but with a healthful twist. You’ll not only slash fat and calories, you’ll get half the saturated fat you’d find in chocolate bars or M&Ms. Be sure to keep an eye on portions. Even though it’s good for you, trail mix is high in calories. Three tablespoons supply 140 calories and 9 grams of fat.

7. Single serve bags of baby carrots
You no longer need to stumble across a roadside stand to get your fill of fresh veggies. Conveniently packaged single-serve bags of baby carrots make it easy to sneak in a serving of produce. Precut, prewashed and easily portable, they make a smart alternative to other bagged snacks. One 2¼ ounce bag delivers 90 percent of your daily dose of vitamin A and 2 grams of fiber for only 25 calories.  

8. Fresh fruit cup
Stores like 7-Eleven are making it easier for you to get your fruit fix. Now instead of gravitating toward the snack aisle, check out the fresh food case. There you’ll find juicy fruit cups made from pre-cut cantaloupe, honeydew, and grapes. Not only are they a calorie bargain, they’re rich in fiber and also supply healthful antioxidants like vitamins A and C and beta-carotene. They’re filling too. One 8-oz container provides roughly 2 servings of fruit for only about 100 calories. If you can’t find fresh cut fruit, look for fruit packed in water or extra-light syrup.  



9. Part skim string cheese sticks

It’s hard to squeeze in your 3 daily servings of dairy when you’re cooped up in the car all day. Calcium-rich snacks like string cheese can help. Grab a couple of these and you’ll get as much calcium as you would from a glass of milk. What’s more, their protein (one piece supplies 7 grams) helps you focus and stay alert behind the wheel. For a balanced snack, pair them with a bag of baby carrots.

10. Bananas
Most convenience stores offer single pieces of fresh fruit like bananas, oranges and apples year round. You don't have to look far to find them either—they are usually at the front of the store next to the cash register. If you don't want to worry about washing an apple or trying to peel an orange while driving, reach for a banana. This sweet fruit is packaged in its own skin for easy clean up and nonsticky fingers. Bananas are a potassium powerhouse, delivering energy to help keep you going on that long drive.  


Happy Travels!
-Your Plow & Hert Fitness Team


Currently rated 0 by 0 people

Health & Fitness  
7/22/2014 2:36:00 PM  
The best diet and the best workout program are the ones you can stick with.


One Size Doesn't Fit All: How to Find the Best Health and Fitness Routine for You
It's one of the first things we learn in school: Everyone is different. Our bodies react differently to certain types of training. Our stomachs handle different foods in a variety of ways. Some of us are excited for a workout that others dread.

4 Simple Steps to Decide What's Right for You
To become healthier as individuals we need to become people who try different things, listen to our bodies, and find positive lifestyle changes that we can stick with for the long haul. There's no such thing as one-size-fits-all in the health and fitness world. There's only what works for us as individuals. It might not be easy. (It won't.) But it will be worth it.

So, how do we figure out which diet and/or workout routine will help us feel healthy for the long haul? Start by asking yourself these questions:

1.
Do I enjoy your workout? You don’t have to be over-the-top obsessed, but you have to enjoy the exercise you’re doing enough to push past the resistance your mind will give you after the novelty of it wears off. The opposite question to ask is, “Do I dread it?” If so, it’s not the program or diet for you.  

2. Is it sustainable? We all have different schedules. A mother working 70 hours per week is going to have different availability than a student with a light class load. Even if you love what you’re doing, the time commitment has to be sustainable, or else you’ll burn out. Chopping veggies for 30 minutes every day or lifting weights for an hour might not be right for you. Start with a time commitment that's without-a-doubt manageable. You can always add in additional time later.

3. Is there a community of like-minded people to support me? This doesn’t have to be a physical, in-person community, but you should have access to some sort of community. Maybe you really enjoy bodybuilding but love working out alone with your headphones on. Perfect. There are hundreds of bodybuilding forums online where you can learn from and support other people pursuing a common goal. Without this kind of support, you can feel very isolated, and it’s easier to quit when you feel like you’re going it alone. The same goes for diet. You will benefit from a community of people eating the same way and providing recipes, ideas, and support to keep you motivated.

4. Is it working? Check your progress after two months or so by re-testing a workout you did at the very beginning of your program: Can you complete it faster? Are you lifting heavier weights or doing more reps? You can also measure physical markers like body measurements, weight, how your clothes are fitting, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc. Accept that finding the right health and fitness program will involve trial and error and whatever you settle on will take work, you'll bring yourself one step closer to the lifestyle that helps you be the best you can be!

-Your Plow & Hert Fitness Team

Currently rated 0 by 0 people

Outdoor Living  
7/16/2014 9:00:00 AM  

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

 

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



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

 


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

Sustainability  
7/16/2014 9:00:00 AM  

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

 

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



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

 


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

Sustainability  
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.


Currently rated 0 by 0 people

Outdoor Living  
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.


Currently rated 4.7 by 3 people

Fairy Gardens  
4/21/2014 8:00:00 AM  

Sure to attract garden fairies and pixies to your yard, this Miniature Fairy Garden Ivy Furniture Set
is a fun and whimsical addition to flowerbeds and planters alike.

Tell your fairies to put on their jeans, tie back their wings and grab their garden gloves because it is time to get planting! Spring is the perfect reason to make a garden for all your fairy homes and accessories that you have collected over the winter. Here is a brief overview of soil and plant selection to get you off on the right fairy foot.

How to Begin

Starting with the right soil is important to give your plants the best environment to grow in. Not all soil is equal and the easiest way to judge is by looking at it. There should be composted material with small barks bits. It should look alive, dark, rich and full of organic matter. Dirt is the lifeless, gray sandy stuff between the cracks in the sidewalk.

If you are planting edibles (plants that you eat) in your fairy garden and you are not sure of the soil quality, you can get it tested first or ask an experienced gardener for advice. If you are planting ornamentals, like small trees and perennials, you don’t have to be as cautious, but you still should see a nice blend of organic matter in the soil.

Your soil should have a good blend of compost and bark bits. For this container,
vermiculite, the white bits, are added to improve the drainage of the soil.

Starting New

A brand new garden is an exciting project because you can design it exactly the way you like, but still spend a bit of time on the soil before you begin. There are different types of garden soil in your garden bed: sandy, loamy or clay, for example. This depends on where you live and whether your garden bed has been cultivated, or used as a garden before, or not. Topsoil is meant for adding to garden beds, but compost may be a better choice to introduce more organic matter to the soil.

If the ground can be worked, meaning you can shovel it and loosen the soil; you may only need to add some compost to improve the quality for planting. If the soil is hard clay, consider building on top of the clay by using raised beds. Lasagna gardening is another ideal method for building raised garden beds on lawns without needing to rip-out the grass first.

The Gray Fairy Garden Cottage is nestled into an in-ground garden. The creamy
Adirondack Furniture Set is a pretty combination with the blue trim.

Fairy Garden Pots

Potting soil is engineered to have everything that a plant needs to keep the plant healthy. Choose plain organic potting soil with out any added fertilizers or moisture-retention. Different kinds of plants like particular types of potting soil mixes. A cactus, succulents or sedums, for example, like dry roots and will need a different kind of potting soil than a spruce or pine tree where the roots of these conifers need the soil to stay damp. This information is usually noted within the plant’s care instructions on the tag. Group plants with the same soil requirements together in the same pot. Note that topsoil, or soil from your garden bed, is not a substitute for potting soil.

Most plants like a bit of air around their roots. If the regular potting mix does not contain enough drainage material like vermiculite or perlite, you may need to add a handful or two to your soil mix. Providing a good blend of well-draining soil now, will help keep your potted miniature garden together for years.

The Miniature Stucco Fairy Garden Cottage with Thatched Roof is a great match with the Woodland Fairy Garden Set.
The colors of the cottage and the woodsy-ness of the furniture add a country feel to this miniature scene.

Selecting Your Place, Selecting Your Plants

Once you start to look for plants for your fairy garden, you will find a lot of different choices that may be a little overwhelming. Narrow down your plant selection by deciding where you want to plant your garden. If you are working in-ground, is the garden bed in shade, part shade or full sun? If you are planting in a pot, where will the pot be placed? Indoors? Outdoors in part sun? Now you can go find the trees and plants to suit that location.

Indoor plants are different than outdoor plants for most regions. Indoor plants are tropical plants that need to stay 60 degrees or above all year, and they adjust their growth spurts and flowering time by the amount of daylight. Outdoor plants need the changes in temperatures to know when to go dormant, and when to grow. The golden garden rule, is “right plant, right place,” follow this rule for the best success.

Use Sedum cuttings or small rooted drought-tolerant plant starts for your miniature planters because
that little amount of soil won’t be able to say damp. Keep them out or the rain, so the plants don’t drown.


Janit Calvo is the author of the Gardening in Miniature: Create Your Own Tiny Living World from Timber Press. For more great fairy gardening ideas, visit her web site, Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center.


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Fairy Gardens  
4/16/2014 9:55:00 AM  

Fairy Tales: Plow & Hearth customers share their love of fairy gardening

Offering a fun and magical way for diehard gardeners, hobbyists and dabblers alike, to bring enchantment to their gardens, fairy gardening has seen a huge surge in popularity in recent years. To help you get started (or give you inspiration), we’ve talked to some of our “fairy best” customers about their own fairy gardening forays!


 

Fairy Tale #3: Donna A., Thomaston CT

 

A Childhood Pastime Blooms Into Grownup Fun

 

Donna Andersen has always loved gnomes and elves and is a fan of Shakespeare’s classic comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which features fairies. Her German mother was a collector, and when Donna was 10 they visited Germany, bringing back miniature treasures including gnomes and mushrooms, which are very popular in that country. “Fairies and gnomes were a part of my childhood,” she says.

 

Later, Donna received Plow & Hearth’s Elf Door and Windows as a gift, and that inspired a renewed interest in miniatures and miniature gardening. A gnome on a mushroom now guards this door, which is attached to a tree in her yard.



 

Donna’s Miniature Garden Today

 

About 10 feet from the tree, Donna has built a fairy village using several fairy cottages from Plow and Hearth with accessories and elves from other sources, including a case of whimsical faux mushrooms from a local garden center.

 

“We have a stone wall with a patio and a table where we can sit and enjoy the village,” she says. She added gnomes to the village “and we have fun moving them around all of the time so my daughter’s boyfriend’s kids think they’re real,” she added.

 

Donna’s garden is carpeted in artificial moss purchased from a craft store and enhanced by perennials and “lots of annuals,” she says. “I particularly like our Non Stop Petunias. They are huge and they cascade beautifully over the stone wall.”

 

The garden is always a work in process, and Donna plans to keep adding more scenes over time. “Right now I’ve got my eye on the Plow & Hearth bridge!”


 

 

Photo: 52242


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