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Tips for Starting Fires
By Plow & Hearth
2/21/2013 2:53:00 PM  
Super Fatwood

Although it seems so easy to strike a match, turning a stack of wood into a cheerful blaze can be a frustrating challenge for a novice. For those of you new to the joys of wood burning, here are a few tips from the fireplace and woodstove professionals at Plow & Hearth, your Hearth Headquarters®.

Getting Prepared:

Dry Wood A Must
The #1 tip is to start with dry firewood. In order for wood to burn, it must reach a temperature of 451 degrees Fahrenheit. The moisture in damp wood will boil at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, turning it into steam which takes heat away from the wood. Until enough water has escaped, the wood will not burn.

Green wood weighs 30% to 250% more than dry wood because of excess water. As you can imagine, it takes lots of energy to dry wet wood out. Also, the extra water vapor and smoke created by trying to burn green wood condenses more easily on chimney walls, creating a thick, hard-to-remove creosote which increases your chance of a chimney fire. So, whatever else you do, try to start with good, dry wood.

Boy Scout Firebuilding
The classic way to start a fire is to use several sheets of crumpled newspaper, pile on some twigs or kindling split to approximately 1/4" diameter, then use increasingly larger pieces of split wood stacked loosely in a crisscross or teepee-shaped fashion. A match lights the paper, which gets the smallest pieces going, which in turn get the larger pieces going. Soon you have a nice bed of hot coals, which allows you to add full, un-split pieces from the woodpile.

If you have a woodstove, build the pile close to where the air comes into the stove. More air will get into the stack and cause it to catch faster. Bellows can help direct air to your firestarting efforts in either a stove or fireplace.

Firebuilding Shortcuts:

Fortunately, you do not have to find twigs or split kindling every time you start a fire – nor do you have to resort to rubbing two sticks together! Once you have built up a bed of hot coals, you just keep adding whole pieces of wood to the fire. Even more fortunately, there are firestarting aids that bypass using paper and small kindling altogether. Here are some of our favorite fire-building shortcuts:

Green wood weighs 30% to 250% more than dry wood because of excess water. As you can imagine, it takes lots of energy to dry wet wood out. Also, the extra water vapor and smoke created by trying to burn green wood condenses more easily on chimney walls, creating a thick, hard-to-remove creosote which increases your chance of a chimney fire. So, whatever else you do, try to start with good, dry wood.

Boy Scout Firebuilding
The classic way to start a fire is to use several sheets of crumpled newspaper, pile on some twigs or kindling split to approximately 1/4" diameter, then use increasingly larger pieces of split wood stacked loosely in a crisscross or teepee-shaped fashion. A match lights the paper, which gets the smallest pieces going, which in turn get the larger pieces going. Soon you have a nice bed of hot coals, which allows you to add full, un-split pieces from the woodpile.

If you have a woodstove, build the pile close to where the air comes into the stove. More air will get into the stack and cause it to catch faster. Bellows can help direct air to your firestarting efforts in either a stove or fireplace.

The Natural Solution
The most popular firestarting aid with Plow & Hearth employees and customers alike is Fatwood. What is Fatwood? It’s a natural byproduct of logging that comes from the stump of a pine tree that is harvested several years after the tree has been cut. During this time the root system keeps pushing pitch up into the stump, which fills the cells in the stump wood.

Cut into pieces approximately 8"L x 1/2" diameter and boxed in 10, 12, 25 or 35 pound packages, a piece lights with a match and burns with a hot fire for about twenty minutes. A couple of pieces of Fatwood can turn small seasoned logs (or pile of charcoal for grilling) into a blaze quickly.

Being a natural product, Fatwood can be used to start fires in woodstoves, even the new models with catalytic converters that can be harmed using other types of starters.

Resin Rich Fatwood

Lamp Oil Burners                                   
Two traditional firestarting methods rely on lamp oil or kerosene to start a fire without kindling. The Cape Cod Firepot holds oil and a porous ceramic ball on a handle by the hearth. When starting a fire, you place the ball under some kindling and small logs and light it. The lamp oil burns long enough to get the fire going.

A fire tray works in essentially the same manner as the Cape Cod Firepot. You just pour oil in a cast iron tray with a porous ceramic insert, put the tray under your firewood and light it.

Compressed Sawdust Starters
The most widely available fire starters, this type is similar to the artificial fire logs. They are made of highly flammable sawdust that is molded with a flammable binder. They light easily and will provide enough heat to create a fire.

Replica Dynamite Fire Starters
                                                                                                        Replica Dynamite Fire Starters

Practice Makes Perfect
Starting fires is definitely a learned skill. The more fires you start, the better your technique gets. Whatever method you choose, don't get frustrated if it doesn't work the first time. Just use some smaller pieces of wood until you get it right!

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Categories: Hearth
Choosing The Right Electric Fireplace Or Stove
By Plow & Hearth
2/21/2013 2:51:00 PM  
Electric Fireplace

For tens of thousands of years, the flickering flames and warmth of a fire on the hearth has been an integral part of daily human life. We can all identify with the calm and peaceful feeling of looking into the heart of an open fire. But, the advent of modern heating and cooking appliances has taken the open flame out of most of our homes. Electric stoves and fireplaces are an easy way to introduce the realistic and satisfying effect of burning wood into any room while providing safe, clean and efficient heat.

How They Work:

There are two basic functions to an electric stove or fireplace: the flame effect and the electric heater. Realistic open fire flames are created by the light from small bulbs or LEDs shining onto a random pattern of rotating, polished metal fingers that reflect the light onto a glass screen to create an ever changing three-dimensional flame effect. These “flames” can be so realistic that you hesitate to reach out to the surface, even though it’s cool to the touch. The built in heater works by having electrical current pass through metal coils that heat up. The radiant heat that is produced is moved out of the stove with a built-in, super-quiet fan, creating warm air that circulates through the room.

The Benefits Of Faux Fire:

• All of the units just plug into any electrical outlet.
• All surfaces stay cool and safe, so they can be placed against a wall or cabinet on a wood floor or carpeting.
• Unlike a gas or wood appliances there are no emissions, so no chimney or venting is required.
• They are completely safe around children or pets. (Dogs and cats usually stake out a warm spot right in front of the heater)
• The built in electric heater uses approximately 1500 watts, with a 4-5,000 btu output. Enough to heat around 400 square feet.
• All of the stoves and fireplaces have built in thermostats or variable heat output controls, as well as brightness control for the flames.
• The flame effect and heater can be operated independently, so you can have the flames without the heat being on. Many models also come with a remote control.
• Save energy by zone heating in the room you are using, instead of heating the whole house with a central system.

Form, Function And Fit:

With the knowledge of electric fireplace functionality and benefits under your belt, you can now begin your process of selecting the size and style that’s right for your living quarters—whether it’s a home, apartment, condo or cottage. Electric fireplaces and stoves come in so many shapes and sizes, there’s sure to be a style to suit your space.

Electric Fireplaces—From Mantels To Entertainment Centers:

Electric fireplaces are available in a variety of styles designed to fit into any home décor. You can choose from simple compact designs, traditional fireplace surrounds and mantels, or entertainment centers to hold a wide screen TV.

Surrounds and mantels for the electric fireplaces are all wood construction with real veneers that are fine furniture quality and available in a variety of stained finishes, as well as basic black and stone. The fireplace surrounds are easy to assemble and the electric fireplace units come assembled, ready to plug in. If you’re looking for something that provides more of a traditional fireplace feel or would like to create ambiance in extra rooms, mantels and surrounds offer the perfect solution.

The combination electric fireplace/entertainment center option is great for someone who has limited space and wants more out of their fireplace than just heat and good looks. This choice also makes a nice focal point for a room and has great potential for storage.

Electric Fireplace Inserts:

Fireplace insert units are designed to fit right into any existing fireplace to provide the warmth and ambiance of a real fire without the maintenance and mess. Electric inserts are easily portable and come assembled and ready to plug in. When using an electric fireplace  inserts you can keep the damper closed since they produce no smoke or emissions.

Electric Stoves:

Featuring the same realistic flame patterns and efficient electric heater as the fireplaces, electric stoves can go anywhere, living room, basement, garage, kitchen or bedroom. Patterned after classic European cast iron wood burning stove designs, they add a warm, traditional feeling to any room, even before you turn the flames on. Available in compact or full size models, basic black or colors, they are lightweight, durable, and can be easily moved from room to room.

Wall-Mounted Fireplaces:

Wall Mount Electric Fireplaces take flames and heat to a new place in the home. Wall mount fireplaces have all the same features of the electric stoves, but take up no floor space. They come with wall mounting hardware and can be placed on virtually any wall in the house. Since the flames and heat can be operated independently, imagine adding the look of a cheerful fire to a room anytime of year. Like a piece of wall art, they are framed in real wood with a choice of finishes.

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Selecting & Caring For Furniture  
A Dictionary of Bedding Terms
By Plow & Hearth
2/21/2013 2:50:00 PM  

We’ve come a long way in bedroom décor since the Egyptian pharaohs first moved their beds up off the ground around 3400 BC! One of the easier and more cost-effective ways to give your bedroom a whole new look includes selecting all-new bedding. But with so many bedding types out there, how do you find the ones that are best for you?

What makes shopping for new bedding even more confusing is the myriad of unfamiliar terms used to describe and classify the different types and styles. (What’s the difference between a quilt and a comforter? How do you know whether or not you’ll need a bed skirt? And what’s included in a quilt or comforter set?)

Rest easy – to make your search easier, we’ve compiled a mini “dictionary” of some common bedding terms.

The Bed

Beds come in different sizes and styles and have different parts – some common to all beds, others optional or decorative. Familiarity with the different sizes and parts will ensure you get the right bedding and let you know exactly what you’re getting.

California king bed
: A bed that accommodates a mattress size that is 6" narrower and 4" longer than a conventional king-size mattress (also known as a western king).


canopy bed: Similar to a four-poster bed, a canopy bed has a post at each corner that is 4 feet high or taller, with a decorative cover or cloth suspended between the posts.


crib mattress: Most crib mattresses measure approximately 51½"W x 27"L.


finial: A decorative ornament at the top, end, or corner of an object.


footboard: A upright panel forming the foot of a bed.


four-poster bed: a bed with a post at each corner, sometimes supporting a canopy.


frame: Also known as a bedstead, a bed frame is the part of a bed used to position the mattress and base (foundation), and includes head, foot, and side rails. Usually made of wood or metal.


futon: a type of low sofa that can be unfolded for use as a bed.


full bed: At 54"W x 74"L, a full-size bed is the same length as a twin bed, but is about sixteen inches wider (also known as a double bed).


headboard: A upright panel forming or placed behind the head of a bed.


king bed: At 80"W x 76"L (inches), a king-size bed is the same length as a queen bed, but is sixteen inches wider (also known as an eastern king).


queen bed: At 80"W x 60"L (inches), a queen-size bed is six inches wider and six inches longer than a full or double bed.


spearhead: The a rail along the side of a bed connecting the headboard to the footboard.


twin bed: At 39"W x 74"L, a twin-size bed is the smallest size mattress available for adults (also known as a single bed).


twin XL: At 39"W x 80"L, a twin XL bed is six inches longer than a standard twin, making it a more comfortable choice for taller individuals.

Sorting Out the Different Types of Bedding

What do all those terms actually mean? If you’ve ever wondered what’s the difference between a quilt and a comforter, whether or not you really need a bed skirt, or what comes with a quilt set, this section will help you.

bed-in-a-bag: A pre-assembled set that typically includes a comforter, bed ruffle, sham, sheets and pillowcases.


bed skirt: Also known as a dust ruffle, a bed skirt is a decorative piece used to cover the box spring and legs of the bed. It fits between the mattress and box spring and hangs to the floor. See also detachable bed skirt.


bedspread: Also known as a spread, a bedspread is a bed cover with sides that go to the floor. Bedspreads do not require a bed skirt.


comforter: Also known as a duvet, a comforter is a thick, quilted bedcover filled with feathers, down or other natural or man-made fibers.


comforter cover: Also known as a duvet cover, a comforter cover is a sack-like covering with three closed sides and one open side that fits over a comforter to give it a new look.


comforter set: An ensemble that includes a comforter, bed skirt and two standard shams (twin has one sham; queen and queen have two shams).


coverlet: A coverlet is traditionally a lightweight, woven spread used on the top of the bedding. It can be big enough to hang down the sides of a bed or just cover the top of the mattress so that the bed skirt or bed frame is exposed.


detachable bed skirt: A bed skirt that features a hook-and-loop attachment so it can be fitted around the box spring for easy removal.


duvet: See comforter.


duvet cover: See comforter cover.


Euro sham: A decorative casing for square pillows. These are often placed behind the standard size pillow shams as a backdrop, or on top of standard pillows as a coordinated set with a duvet cover.


fitted sheet: Used as a bottom sheet, a fitted sheet’s four corners (and sometimes two or all four sides) are fitted with elastic so it “hugs” the mattress, staying in place more firmly. See also flat sheet.


flannel sheets: Sheets made of brushed cotton fabric for extra warmth and softness.


flat sheet: A simple rectangular piece of cloth used as either a top sheet or bottom sheet on a mattress. See also fitted sheet.


mattress pad: A padded fabric that fits over a mattress and is used under the bottom sheet. It both protects the mattress and adds extra softness or padding to the bed.


pillowcase: A removable cloth cover for a pillow.


pillow sham: A decorative cover for a pillow when it is not being used.


quilt: A quilt is a bed cover made up of three layers: a top, the batting (usually cotton or polyester fiber fill) and a backing. The layers are held together with stitching through all three layers. The top layer is usually artfully patterned; the bottom layer can either match the top or offer a contrasting look.


quilt set: A coordinated bed ensemble that includes a quilt, two standard shams (one sham with a twin quilt) and, in some cases, a decorative throw or toss pillow.


reversible quilt: A two-sided quilt that can be used on either side. The pattern may be the same on both sides, or one side may be a coordinating alternative or solid pattern.


sham: A decorative covering for a pillow, often designed with trims, ruffles, flanges, or cording. Pillow shams are normally placed in front of the pillows used for sleeping, which would be covered with regular pillowcases.


sheet set: A complete set that includes a flat sheet, fitted sheet and two standard pillowcases (twin has one pillowcase; full and queen have two standard pillowcases, king has two king pillow cases).


throw: Smaller than a standard blanket, a throw is usually about 50" x 60" and is used primarily as a decorative or coordinating accent when draped over a sofa, chair, foot of a bed, or hung on a wall or rack. Used less for warmth when sleeping, throws a usual for providing warmth while relaxing on a couch or chair.


throw pillow: also known as a toss or accent pillow, a throw pillow is a small, decorative pillow placed on a chair, couch or bed.


Bedding-specific Terms

Here is a list of terms commonly used to describe bedding characteristics, and exactly what they mean.

cotton batting
: A layer of compressed cotton fibers used as a fill in quilts.


drop: Commonly used in bedskirt measurements, the drop refers to the length of the skirt measured from the box spring to the floor.


fill: Also known as batting, fill is a layer of insulation or cushioning between fabrics.


flange: A strip of fabric sewn around the outside of a blanket or quilt as a border or binding.


gusseted: Refers to a pillow with rectangular panels along its four sides to increase thickness.


hypoallergenic: Having a lower incidence of allergic reaction - either naturally or as a result of special washes or treatments.


loft: Refers to the thickness of a pillow, comforter, quilt or fabric.


memory foam: Synthetic foam than changes its shape in reaction to body temperature, thereby “remembering” the shape of the person using it and providing more comfortable/body-contouring support.


pockets: The corners of a fitted sheet, sized specifically to accommodate thicker mattresses.


shell: The outermost layer or cover of a comforter.


split corners: On a bed skirt, corners at the foot of the bed, from the platform to the hem, constructed without seams to create an opening to accommodate bed posts. Used on beds without posts, the edges at the corners overlap to conceal the opening.


thread count: The number of vertical and horizontal threads per square inch in a woven fabric. Higher thread counts result in a smoother, more durable fabric.


Materials & Fabrics to Help You Relax

Boucle, jacquard, percale…they sound lovely, but what do they really mean? What can you expect to see when you hear the words, “Jacobean pattern,” and what are the advantages and disadvantages of down versus polyfill?


When it comes to bedding fabrics, you can choose based on the look you’re going for, whether you’re a warm or cool sleeper, how easy the material is to care for, and more. Knowing what the following terms mean can help you make a more informed decision.


acrylic: Acrylic is a synthetic fabric that is machine washable, wrinkle-resistant, and won’t fade in the sunlight.


bouclé: Boucle is a woven or knitted fabric made with popular novelty yarn to create a rough, looped or knotted textured surface.


brocade: A rich fabric, usually silk, woven with a raised pattern, typically with gold or silver thread.


brushed cotton: Cotton fabric that has been finished so as to raise the surface fibers (see also flannel).


chenille: A luxuriously soft, textured fabric characterized by a thick pile. Chenille is usually made from cotton or wool, but also can be constructed of acrylic, rayon or olefin.


combed cotton: Combed cotton is an extremely soft version of cotton made by specially treating the cotton fibers before they are spun into yarn.


cotton: Derived from the cotton plant, cotton is a soft, lightweight and breathable fabric that is ideal for bedding because it can be woven into a wide range of patterns, colors, weights and textures.


cotton-rich: Blended fabric with a higher percentage of cotton to give the fabric more of cotton’s natural characteristics, such as softness and breathability.


down: The soft, fluffy substance culled from the underside of a bird (usually goose or duck) that is used to fill pillows, comforters and mattress toppers. Known for its lightweight, thermal properties, down naturally contracts to retain warmth when the temperature drops.


eyelet: type of decorative cutwork in which the edges of a small hole are finished with embroidery.


flannel: Flannel is a soft, light, woven fabric made of wool, cotton or synthetic fibers. Flannel sheets, while soft, are often exceptionally warm.


fleece: Fabric with a soft pile in imitation of a sheep’s furry coat.


gingham: Lightweight plain-woven cotton cloth, typically checked in white and a bold color.


lace: Lace is a delicate, ornamental fabric woven in an open, web-like pattern, often combined with different types of embroidery.


Microfiber: A synthetic weave of tightly woven fibers that offer a smooth, supple surface with a silky hand and natural water repellency.


percale: Closely woven, plain-weave cotton with a thread count of 180 or above


plush: A fabric having a cut nap or pile the same as fustian or velvet.


polyester: Polyester is an easy-care, synthetic fiber that’s machine washable, dries quickly, is wrinkle-resistant and takes dye easily. Polyester is often blended with cotton or with other synthetic fibers.


polyfill: A synthetic material used as cushioning in pillows and bedding.


sateen: A luxury fabric woven very tightly, using the satin weave technique, which imparts a subtle sheen and a soft, silky hand.


satin: Fabric woven and finished to create a very smooth, lustrous face appearance.


silk: Silk is a natural fiber that features a soft hand, lustrous appearance and superior draping qualities.


suede: Sueded fabrics include cotton, silk or synthetic fabrics designed with a napped finish to resemble the look and feel of leather.


twill: A fabric with a surface of diagonal parallel ridges.


It's Okay to Embellish a Little

Fabrics don’t have to be plain – textured or patterned weaves, embroidery, embellishments, prints and trim add visual interest to basic fabrics so that your bedding adds to the look of your home’s décor.


appliqué: Appliqué refers to a needlework technique in which pieces of fabric are embroidered onto a background fabric to create a design.


binding: A narrow length of fabric that has been sewn on to cover seams or unfinished edges. Referred to as “self-binding” when in the same color and fabric as the base fabric. Contrasting binding is of a different color, pattern or fabric.


box pleat: A pleat consisting of two parallel creases facing opposite directions and forming a raised section in between.


damask: Damask is an elaborately patterned, jacquard-woven fabric constructed from silk, linen, wool, cotton or synthetic fibers. Common design themes in damask fabrics include flowers, leaves, fruit and animal figures. Metallic threads can be added to the pattern for effect.


diamond stitching: In quilting, contrasting stitches in a diamond pattern.


embroidery: Embroidery is decorative, ornamental needlework stitches used to dress up a base fabric. Embroidery can be machine woven or done by hand.


ground: Background color or fabric against which a fabric is overlaid.


hand-guided: Hand guiding is when a person physically controls or guides the movement of the long-arm sewing machine head to create the stitching pattern.


hand stitch: Sewing done by hand instead of a sewing machine.


hemstitch: A decoration used on woven fabric, especially alongside a hem, in which several adjacent threads are pulled out and the crossing threads are tied into bunches, making a row of small openings.


Jacobean: Jacobean patterns refer to the floral scrolled designs popularly appearing on fabrics during the reign of King James I of England during the early 17th Century.


jacquard: A jacquard weave creates an intricate, textured pattern within the fabric. Tapestries, brocades and damask fabrics are all jacquard weaves.


machine woven: Fabric that has been created by interlacing two distinct threads on a machine.


matelassé: A soft, jacquard-woven fabric with a quilted, puckered surface appearance that adds dimension and texture. Used most often in coverlets.


mitered corners: A method of hemming two edges so they meet evenly in a crisp fold that is not bulky.


Oeko-Tex®-certified: Fabric that his been tested for the presence of harmful substances by the OEKO-TEX® Standard 100, an independent testing and certification system for textile raw materials, intermediate and end products at all stages of production.


ombre: A French term meaning “shaded” or variegated;” usually refers to a yarn or thread changing gradually from one color to another.


 patchwork: Needlework in which small pieces of cloth in different designs, colors, or textures are sewn together.


pick stitching: A line of simple running stitches that catch only a few threads of the fabric, showing very little of the thread on the outer side of the cloth.


piping: A thin decorative trim used to finish a hem, seam or as an outline. Can be the same or contrasting fabric.


print: In fabric, color bonded with the fibers in pictures or patterns to resist washing and friction.


pre-washed: Fabric that has been washed before being sewn to reduce the likelihood of shrinking.


quilting: the process of sewing of two or more layers of fabric together to make a thicker padded material.


self-bound edges: A self-bound edge or seam is a seam that has been sewn so that all the raw edges so that the inside of the piece for a neater, tidier appearance.


silk screen printing: A printing technique whereby a mesh is used to transfer ink onto a surface.


stone washing: When fabric is washed with abrasives to produce a worn or faded appearance.


tapestry: A piece of thick fabric with pictures or designs formed by weaving colored weft threads or by embroidering.


upholstery: Fabric added to furniture as a cover.


vermicelli stitching: Contoured stitching that never crosses itself.


weight: The thickness of a fabric based on its type and how it has been woven.


whipstitch: A simple used to sew together two separate pieces of material with flat edges.


whole cloth: Cloth of the full size as manufactured, as distinguished from a piece cut off for a garment or other item.


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Selecting & Caring For Furniture  
A Dictionary of Window Treatment Terms
By Plow & Hearth
2/21/2013 2:48:00 PM  
Window Treatments

One of the easier and more cost-effective ways to give a room a whole new look includes adding new window treatments. But with so many types and styles of curtains, blinds and drapes to choose from, how can you find the ones that are best for your windows?

What makes shopping for new window treatments even more confusing is the myriad of unfamiliar terms used to describe and classify the different types and styles. (What is a cellular shade, anyway? What’s the difference between a curtain and a drapery? And why is it important to know the depth of a rod pocket?)

To make your search easier, we’ve compiled a mini “dictionary” of some of the terms you’ll find to describe common window treatments.

The Basics:

These terms describe the different types of window treatments and their basic components or parts used to describe them.

blinds: Refers to window treatments made of horizontal or vertical slats, kept in place with string, cord or fabric tape. Materials for blinds include plastic, metal, wood and heavy fabric.

curtains: Not to be confused with draperies, curtains are unlined, stationary window coverings. Curtains can be hung over windows using a curtain rod or decorative pole, and are most often held back with tiebacks or holdbacks to let in some light. Curtains can be made of most any lightweight, sheer or semi-sheer fabric.

drape: Not to be confused with draperies, “drape” refers to the way a fabric hangs on the window.

draperies: Draperies are window treatments made of fabric that’s heavier than that usually used for curtains. They can be stationary or mobile, and can be used with fabric tiebacks or fixed holdbacks mounted on either side of a window. Draperies can be lined for the purpose of insulation or light blocking and used with a variety of decorative or non-decorative curtain rods. They also come in many hanging styles. Common materials for draperies include brocade, boucle, chenille, damask, suede and velvet.

Draperies are often lined, tailored, and pinch-pleated. They usually stretch from floor-to-ceiling, giving them a more formal look. Draperies are most often seen in a living room, master bedroom, or dining room. They often cost more due to the high quality of the fabric, the fact that they are lined, and the beautiful way they "drape" from the curtain rod to the floor.

hand: This refers to the actual “feel” and draping abilities of a fabric; for example, a fabric with a “soft hand” drapes easily and is soft to the touch.

rod pocket curtains: Also known as a pole top curtain or draperies. rod pocket curtains or draperies have a horizontal sleeve stitched across the top that opens to allow a curtain rod or decorative rod to be slipped through. The curtain or drapery is then arranged to create a soft, gathered look.

shade: “Shades” can refer to blinds, pleated shades, roller shades and other opaque window coverings that can be adjusted to fully or partially expose or cover a window.

sheers: Made of lightweight, translucent and finely woven fabrics, sheers can be used alone to obscure a view while letting in plenty of light or under draperies to create a layered look.

Styles for Every Window:

OK so you’ve decided whether or not to go with blinds, curtains, shades, or a combination. The fun doesn’t stop there! Each of these very different treatments comes in a variety of styles from casual to formal, traditional to modern, classic to cozy. You can even choose styles based on how much or how little light you want to let in These terms explain the different styles available so you can best decide what works for you.

ascot valance: A triangular top treatment usually used between matching panels. A double rod would be used, with the panels on the inside rod and usually 3 ascots on the outside rod for a finished look. An ascot can also be inserted between the panels on a single rod.

blackouts: Blackout draperies are lined or coated window panels made from heavyweight fabric. Blackout draperies are designed to block light and insulate windows so that artificially warmed or cooled air doesn’t escape and outside temperatures can’t penetrate the rooms as easily. Blackout draperies also reduce exterior noise.

blouson/balloon valance: A straight-across valance that is sewn as a pocket that can be filled with tissue paper for a full, puffy look, or left unstuffed for a more tailored look.

café curtains: Also known as tiered curtains or kitchen tiers, these short, straight curtains cover the lower half of a window. Café curtains are usually paired with some sort of top treatment, such as a swag valance.

cellular shade: Known for a distinctive “honeycomb” fabric construction, cellular shades are multi-layered, pleated shades that trap air to provide a high level of window insulation.

crescent valance: A gathered, half-moon valance usually used with jabots or as top treatments to window panels.

grommet-top curtains: Grommets (or eyelets) are metal, plastic or rubber rings used to reinforce a hole in fabric. Grommet top curtains and draperies are hung using “grommets” or “eyelets” – metal, plastic or rubber reinforced holes in the top of the fabric through which decorative curtain rod can be threaded, instead of using a rod pocket to hang the window treatment.

insert valance: A valance that is usually shorter in width than a regular valance. It is used between two panels or a pair of swags.

panel: A panel refers to a single curtain or drapery. A conventional window treatment requires two panels, also known as a “panel pair.”

pinch pleats: A pinch pleat is a three-fold, stitched pleat at the top of a formal drapery panel. The draperies generally are hung on a traverse rod using drapery hooks inserted into the back of the pleat.

roller shade/roll-up shade: Flat fabric, plastic or vinyl shades that roll up onto a cylinder. With roller shades, the cylinder is spring loaded, while with roll-up shades, the shade is drawn up with cords or strings. Roll up shades also can be made of wood.

Roman shade: This fabric window shade creates a tailored, flat look at the window. The classic Roman shade features a flat face fabric that forms pleats as the shade is raised; these pleats are formed by rings threaded with cords or tapes sewn on the back of the fabric that allow the shade to be raised and lowered.

swag: Also known as a jabot, it’s a decorative window top treatment that features a soft, curving semicircle centered on the window with fabric hanging down on both sides. Multiple swags can be used on a window to create a highly decorative top treatment; longer swags can also be used alone as a simple window embellishment. Swags can be made from any fabric and are can trimmed with fringe, lace or tassels.

tab-top curtains: Tab top curtains and draperies are hung from fabric loops or tabs sewn across their tops. A curtain rod or decorative pole is threaded through the tabs, creating a window covering that hangs straight and flat.

tailoring: The term “tailored” or “tailoring” refers to panels or valances with simple, straight lines that hang straight down from the rod.

thermal backing: Thermal-backed draperies are coated on the back side of the material with an insulating layer to block light, heat, drafts or sound. They work similarly to thermal-lined draperies, which have a separate lining that acts as the insulating layer. Thermal linings can be obtained separately for regular draperies.

tie tops: Tie-top curtains and draperies have ribbons or tapes sewn across the top that are used to tie the panel to the rod or to rings and create a casual, homespun look.

valances: Valances are decorative window treatments that cover the top part of a window. They can be used as the top layer of a layered window treatment or as alone as a decorative accent.

Material World:

Curtains, draperies and even blinds come in a variety of materials that can add weight or lighten up a room, depending on the look you’re going for. Whether a room’s crying out for the luxurious warmth of chenille or the springy lightness of traditional gingham, Here are just a few of the most popular materials, along with their benefits.

acrylic: Acrylic is a lightweight fabric that looks and feels like wool, but is machine washable, wrinkle-resistant, and won’t fade in the sunlight. Acrylic window treatments are easy to care for and hold up well over time.

bouclé: Boucle is a woven or knitted fabric made with popular novelty yarn to create a rough, looped or knotted textured surface.

chenille: A luxuriously soft, textured fabric characterized by a thick pile. Chenille is usually made from cotton or wool, but also can be constructed of acrylic, rayon or olefin.

damask: Damask is an elaborately patterned, jacquard-woven fabric constructed from silk, linen, wool, cotton or synthetic fibers. Common design themes in damask fabrics include flowers, leaves, fruit and animal figures. Metallic threads can be added to the pattern for effect.

eyelet: A lightweight curtain fabric decorated with small, embroidered holes; the holes are often laid out in a flower pattern. It is also known as “eyelet lace” and is often used as trim.

gingham: A casual cotton or cotton/polyester blend fabric that has a small-scale checkerboard design of colored squares alternating with white squares. Gingham frequently is used for tier curtains.

lace: Lace is a delicate, ornamental fabric woven in an open, web-like pattern, often combined with different types of embroidery.

linen: Linen is a flat-woven fabric made from the fibers of the flax plant. Linen is extremely strong and smooth with a crisp texture. It can also be blended with cotton, silk, and other natural fibers.

polyester: Polyester is an easy-care, synthetic fiber that’s machine washable, dries quickly, is wrinkle-resistant and takes dye easily. Polyester is often blended with cotton or with other synthetic fibers.

rayon: A versatile, semi-synthetic fiber made from cellulose, rayon has a shiny finish and superior draping characteristics. Most rayon fabrics need to be dry-cleaned.

silk: Silk is a natural fiber that features a soft hand, lustrous appearance and superior draping qualities. Common types of silk include and dupioni.

suede: Sueded fabrics include cotton, silk or synthetic fabrics designed with a napped finish to resemble the look and feel of leather.

voile: A simple, lightweight, semi-sheer fabric made from cotton, polyester, silk or rayon, voile is a popular as an under-treatment in layered window treatment ensembles.

It’s OK To Embellish A Little:

Add texture to a room by adding texture to your window treatments! Fabrics don’t have to be plain – textured or patterned weaves, embroidery, embellishments and trim add visual interest to basic fabrics, making your window treatments as much a fashion statement as your furniture or area rugs.

appliqué: Appliqué refers to a needlework technique in which pieces of fabric are embroidered onto a background fabric to create a design.

basketweave: A basketweave is an allover textured design created by an under-and-over weaving process, resembling the weave used to make baskets.

box pleat: Box pleats are evenly spaced and stitched double pleats, with fabric folded under on both sides to create a box. Box pleats are often used as a header for draperies.

burnout: A fabric design produced by dissolving away one or more fibers in a fabric using a weak acid or chemical salt, which destroys some of the fibers to create a relief or silhouette pattern.

embroidery: Embroidery is decorative stitches used to dress up a base fabric. There are many different types of embroidery used to embellish curtains and draperies, including eyelet, chain stitch, cross stitch, crewel and satin stitch patterns.

jacquard: A jacquard weave creates an intricate woven pattern using multiple levels. Tapestries, brocades and damask fabrics are all jacquard weaves.

matelassé: A complex jacquard woven fabric with an embossed, quilted appearance.

slub or slubbed fabric: Small nubs or bumps in a fabric, woven to create a random, allover texture.

The Nuts And Bolts Of Hanging:

No need to settle for the traditional traverse rod if you don’t want to (and we explain what that is and how it works, too): today’s window treatment hardware options come in a wide array of decorative and functional styles and colors that are sure to add the perfect finishing touch to your ensemble.

brackets: A bracket refers to a piece of hardware attached to a wall or window frame used to support a curtain rod, decorative rod or drapery holdbacks. In wall-mounted brackets, plastic or metal screw anchors are used to install the bracket and add stability and extra support to the rod.

café rod: A café curtain rod is a narrow metal or plastic rod used to hang lightweight curtains that comes in two diameters (½” or ¾”).

center draw: “Center draw” refers to drapery traverse rods that open and close from the center.

clip rings: Clip rings are small metal, wood or plastic rings with a clip that are used in hanging curtains or draperies. The rings slide onto the drapery pole or curtain rod and the clips attach to the fabric panels. Clip rings can be used with pinch-pleated draperies in place of hooks.

drapery hooks: Drapery hooks are inserted into the back of the pleats in pinch pleated draperies. The hooks are then threaded onto a carrier on a traverse rod.

finial: A finial is a decorative end piece used to finish or cap the ends of a drapery rod or top of a drapery holdback. Finials come in a variety of shapes, including balls, urns, pineapples, leaves, flowers, scrolls and fleur-de-lis.

holdbacks: Like fabric tiebacks, holdbacks let curtain or drapery panels to be pulled to the sides of the window and held there. Made of metal, wood, resin or plastic, holdbacks are mounted on the sides of the window and come in virtually any shape and design.

tension rod: Tension rods are adjustable, spring loaded curtain rods that mount on the inside of a window frame or between two walls. Most tension rods are telescoping rods with rubber tips, which anchor the rod and eliminate the need for tools when installing.

tiebacks: Tiebacks are slim strips or loops of fabric that fasten drapery or curtain panels to the sides of the window. The most common type of holdback (see above), tiebacks are often made of a fabric that matches the window panel. They can be trimmed with tassels or fringe to create a more decorative look.

traverse rod: Traverse rods are drapery rods (usually hidden) that allow the panels to “traverse,” or open and close” across the window. They are usually hung on drapery pins or hooks, which are threaded onto small carriers on the inner side of the rod, allowing the carriers to slide on a draw cord to open or close the draperies.

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Inside The Home  
Braided Rugs: An American Tradition In Your Home
By Jennifer Whipple
2/21/2013 2:47:00 PM  
Indoor/Outdoor Polypro Braided Rugs 

Want to add a traditional touch to your home? Nothing says "classic Americana" like a braided rug. Don’t be fooled into thinking that they are old fashioned – they may have been around awhile, but they’ve always been practical, economical and environmentally friendly. And nowadays, they’re easy-care, too.

A Handmade Twist On American History

There was a time in this country when housewives not only made their family's clothing, they spun the yarn and wove the cloth, too! Every scrap of fabric was precious and nothing was thrown away. When clothing was torn, faded or no longer fit, the fabric was recycled into quilts and rugs.

Woven and hooked rugs are found worldwide, but braided rugs are uniquely American. The tradition, dependent on the availability of fabric, started in New England, which was also the birthplace of the American textile industry. Braiding was a craft that all women learned as girls, caring for their hair. It required almost no equipment and could be done with minimal lighting so it became a pleasant evening pastime in the days before electric lighting and evening television. The rugs provided early New Englanders with color, softness and warmth in their austere homes.

Bear Creek Wool Braids

Bear Creek Wool Braids

In the mid 1900’s there was a huge resurgence of interest in rug making, and mills throughout the northeast sold fabric remnants by the pound for that purpose. Because both braiding and hooking use the same fabric scraps, there was often an overlap of techniques; hooked rugs were often finished with sturdy braided borders.

Practically Speaking

New Englanders are practical people, and “waste not, want not” and durability are well illustrated in their rugs. Braided rugs are extremely sturdy, longwearing, comfortable to walk on and easy to care for. Tightly braided and laced together, these rugs only required sweeping with a stiff straw broom and regular turning over to reverse the wear. Braided rugs are also very economical: most are reversible, which is like having two rugs in one! Removing gritty dirt is easy and prolongs the life of any rug. Rough shaking or beating on a line puts too much strain on the lacing that binds the braids together but they can be vacuumed - and should periodically be vacuumed on both sides. Depending on what fabric is used to make the rug, stains can be sponged away with soapy water, hosed off or professionally dry-cleaned. If your rugs are subject to heavy traffic, you can further equalize the wear by rotating them end-to-end. Braided rugs are tough.

Thanks to Polypropylene fiber, traditional-style braided rugs are now going outside on the porch, patio and deck. A country-style porch looks great with a long-lasting, low-maintenance braided rug. Woven from weatherproof polypropylene, these modern braids are soft, comfortable and durable. They dry fast so they won’t mildew and are UV-treated to resist sun-damage and fading. And best of all, they’re easy to clean – just hose them off!

braided rug

Outdoor Braided Rugs

What To Look For In A Braided Rug

When deciding on a braided rug, fabric is the first thing to consider. Wool is a great choice because it’s durable, resists staining, molding and mildewing, and prevents spills from soaking through to the floor. Wool fibers can also withstand high temperatures, which make them ideal for fireside or hearthrugs. Wool rugs tend to keep their shapes very well, too.

Another popular choice for braided rugs is cotton. Soft and lightweight, cotton braided rugs soak up moisture and dry quickly. The non-elastic fibers can be woven very tightly, too, so cotton braided rugs hold their shape very well.

Braided rugs made from synthetic fibers are an excellent choice as well. Polypropylene fibers resist fading and can be hosed clean, which make them ideal for the deck or patio. Polyester rugs share some of the indoor/outdoor qualities of polypropylene rugs and are economical, too. Both materials resist mold and mildew.

How tightly a rug is assembled is a prime indicator of the rug’s quality. After all, it doesn’t matter how good the fabric or tight the braid if the lacing is weak. When you purchase a braided rug, look for tight braiding and tight stitching. Tightly braided rugs are heavier and firmer. They are thicker and softer to walk on and repel dirt better.

Finding The Fit

The size rug you buy depends on how much surrounding floor you want showing or covered. Furniture is usually placed entirely on or off an area rug, but traffic patterns and your furniture might dictate differently. Allow rugs to extend 30-36" beyond the chairs at a dining or kitchen table so that the chairs don’t catch as they pull in and out. Braided rugs do not need thick padding, but they do benefit from a simple non-skid pad to keep them in place.

Every Day Rug Pad
Every Day Rug Pad
Patio Pads
Patio Pads
Outdoor Rug Pad
Outdoor Rug Pad

Try Making Your Own!

If you enjoy crafts, you might want to consider braiding a rug. The equipment is minimal: sharp scissors, clothespins, needles, threads, strips of good quality fabric and a C-clamp to hook the braid onto as you work. Fabric doesn't have to be new, but it should be free of moth holes, tears and stains and still have enough life left in it to be worthy of your efforts. You'll need to cut strips about 1-3/4" wide, join them with bias seams and roll the strips into three balls to braid from.

You'll braid the strips the same way you braid hair - but much tighter and you need to fold the torn or cut edges of the fabric to the inside as you work. If a rug seems like a huge project, think about doing chair pads, stair treads or a tote bag. Braiding isn’t difficult and like many crafts, can be learned from a book. If you prefer to take classes, check your local craft center or adult education program.

Whether your old winter coat ends up underfoot or you purchase a ready-made rug, you’ll find that braided rugs offer the perfect foundation for a country or antique decorating scheme. With our tendency to throw things away and buy new, there is something reassuring (and contemporary) about a folk art that recycles. Nostalgia and charm are important to country decorating and braided rugs rank high in both!

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Outdoor Living  
Summer Relaxing
By Plow & Hearth
2/21/2013 2:45:00 PM  
relaxing summer

Goldilocks had it right. Finding (or creating) a situation that's "just right"—neither too hot, nor too cold, too hard, or too soft—is the key to a relaxing summer siesta---or even just being able to kick back and enjoy a leisurely afternoon with a book and glass of iced tea. Obviously, arranging your little rest spot beneath a centuries-old oak, or, even better, on a summer porch overlooking the breaking waves of the Atlantic or Pacific would be ideal, but few of us have that luxury. So, instead, we make do and adapt to the situation at hand.

Made In The Shade

Unless baking in the sun is your goal (or your nearest metropolis happens to be Anchorage, Alaska), it's likely that providing a bit of shade is an essential part of getting comfy in the dog days of July and August. Though it's little comfort in the near term, if your yard doesn't have a good shade tree or two, this is the year to plant. Too often, homeowners repeat to themselves year after year, "I wish I'd planted that [choose your favorite tree] years ago, when we first bought this place," all the while letting more time slip by. If you've ever needed or wanted one, make it a point to plant a shade tree this year.

In the meantime, take advantage of the shade cast by your house, garage or other outbuilding if possible, situating your personal rest area on the north side of one of these structures. If your property doesn't lend itself to such a solution, consider a large, freestanding umbrella. Somehow, you want to be able to temper the heat of the day, at least a bit, in order to enjoy the fresh air and avoid retreating into an air-conditioned environment.

A good umbrella is an indispensable accessory for creating your own shady oasis and enjoying the summer weather. Most outdoor dining tables have holes in the center to accommodate an umbrella. Use a weighted stand to support a portable umbrella anywhere you want to create some relaxing shade. Hinged poles with a tilting mechanism allow you to angle the umbrella to supply more shade when the sun is lower in the sky. Choose the largest diameter umbrella that is practical for your space. You can’t have too much shade on a hot summer day!

Sitting Pretty

A shady spot with a warm breeze makes a nice start, but you've also got to have a good seat to plunk down in, or else you'll be doing more squirming than reading or napping. Everyone has a personal favorite, from the classic Adirondack chair to a padded chaise lounge.

And when it comes to summer relaxing, having lots of choices in seating is important, because there are so many places in which to position your favorite seat. In addition to loungers, rockers and dining furniture for the porch, deck and patio, there are also benches for the garden and folding and portable chairs to take along to the beach, lake, park or poolside. Outdoor seats come in a variety of tough, weather-resistant and long-lasting materials from plastic to metal to various types of wood. Folding chairs are sturdier than ever, yet remain lightweight enough to take with you in the car or even on foot. They’re more comfortable than ever, too, and include styles from ultra-comfortable Zero Gravity Recliners to foldable chairs ideal for fireworks shows, parades and sporting events.

Hardwood All-Weather Adirondack Furniture
Hardwood All-Weather Adirondack Furniture

Back In The Swing Of Things

What says “summer” like a porch swing? Whether you go for a glider or a free-swinging swing, there are as many styles to choose from as there are outdoor furniture sets. In addition to the classic slat-style swing, the ever-growing collection has expanded to include all-weather wicker, log, eucalyptus and more. Many swings have sturdy stands available in case you want to place it in a roofless location; some of these stands even have canopies to keep off the sun. A variety of cushions and pillows adds comfort and style to your selection.

You'd be hard-pressed to find more comfortable "seating" than a hammock. Suspended in a hammock is about as close as most of us will ever get to floating weightless, a very relaxing proposition indeed. Don’t let the lack of perfectly placed trees stop you from enjoying a summer hammock! Use a sturdy hammock stand to place your hammock in the perfect spot for napping and relaxing. Add a pillow or full pad with straps to spruce up an old hammock, or just to provide the ultimate hammock comfort experience.

DuraCord Rope Hammock
DuraCord Rope Hammock

Fire It Up

What about relaxing in the evening? Especially in the Rockies and across the northern tier of states, summer night temperatures can dip sufficiently to make a sweater absolutely essential. Even with a sweater, though, the nip in the air may demand more serious action. Think back to summer camp days for the solution to this "problem." Though a bonfire isn't an option in most communities, a contained fire is, and it makes a warm and welcoming focal point around which to congregate and enjoy a summer evening. Just don't forget the chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers for the 'smores.

Check your local regulations, but most places allow outdoor fires in enclosed fire pits or fireplaces. Place your fire pit in a safe area away from the house or combustible materials and leave plenty of space for gathering around a pleasant evening blaze.

Shop All Fire Pits

Outdoor Lamps

Enjoy reading on the deck? You don’t have to come indoors when it gets dark with outdoor lamps. An array of floor and table lamps beautiful enough for your formal living room (or casual enough for the family room), yet tough enough for the great outdoors let you linger over the paper or a crossword puzzle long after dusk. Heavy bases keep them from tipping over in the wind, while water-resistant shades stand up to the rain. They also make a great complementary accent next to your favorite wicker chair, glider swing or chaise lounge.

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Strain-Free Gardening
By Plow & Hearth
2/21/2013 2:41:00 PM  
strain free gardening

Growing your own flowers and vegetables can be one of the most all-around rewarding experiences of the warm-weather season. Planting your favorite colorful flowers and ornamental plants adds a personal touch to your outdoor spaces, and few things are healthier, tastier and more satisfying than putting homegrown fresh produce on the table.

Less fun, however, are the aches and soreness that can result from hours spent tilling, digging, hoeing and weeding. Hard work and strained muscles don’t have to be part of the garden experience, however...here are some techniques and tools to help reduce or eliminate bending, pulling, lifting and dragging:

Quit Cultivating With Raised Beds

Growing your garden in raised beds can be the single biggest garden labor saver for the simple reason that the soil does not get packed down by walking on it or running equipment over it. Once you have put out the initial effort of filling a raised bed with a quality soil mix, chores like tilling, hoeing, cultivating and weeding are reduced or completely eliminated.

Planting. Because the soil stays soft and workable, you can easily make furrows for planting with your finger or a trowel. When it is time to replant, even mature plants pull out easily and the soil is ready for the next planting.
Weeding. Thinning and weeding becomes almost enjoyable when plants, roots and all, are easy to pull from the loose soil.
Watering and Feeding. Because the soil is contained and isolated by the raised bed, watering and feeding become more effective by staying with the plants and not spreading over a wide area.
Bending and Lifting. Using raised beds makes an amazing difference in the effort and strain on your back compared to gardening at ground level.

Tips For Choosing A Garden Bed. Choose sturdy steel corner brackets that make it easy to construct raised beds from your own lumber, and raised beds kits made from recycled plastic or cedar boards or a self-watering raised bed with built-in reservoir and soaker hoses.

corner brackets
Corner Brackets

Bring Gardening To Your Level With Raised Planters

Raised planters are built on legs three feet above the ground to give you complete control of the soil and allow you to garden without bending over at all. Raised garden planters can be placed anywhere in the yard or on the patio or the deck to make watering and caring for your plants even more convenient. And because the soil is isolated from the ground in a raised planter, many pest problems (like moles, rabbits and insects) are reduced or eliminated altogether.

Durable Wood Raised Bed Planter Square Foot Raised Bed Gardening Table
36" Durable Wood Raised Bed Planter Square Foot Raised Bed Gardening Table

Garden Anywhere With Containers:

You don’t need a big backyard to enjoy fresh herbs, fruits and veggies – any balcony or patio will do. With the right container and light exposure, you can grow anything from tomatoes to potatoes in small spaces. Container gardens have all the advantages of a raised bed or planter, and can be placed or moved anywhere to maximize sun exposure and watering.

  • Self-Watering Containers. Regular freestanding containers dry out quickly and need to be watered often. Self-watering planters have a built in water reservoir that keeps the soil moist, eliminating the need to water daily. Self-watering containers are available with casters for mobility and trellises or cages for growing trailing plants or tomatoes. Attractive window boxes and patio planters are also available in self-watering designs.
  • Inverted Planters. Upside-down planters are ideal for growing tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and more in small spaces. Even a small, sunny balcony could be home to an abundant tomato crop when an inverted planter is used. Another advantage to upside down planters is that they completely eliminate the need for stakes. Staking upright tomato plants is essential to keep the delicate vines from snapping under the weight of the fruit, but inverted containers remove this danger entirely. Finally, as with all containers, inverted containers keep your plants free from fungus, cutworms and other pests.
  • Fabric Containers. In addition to be a simple, inexpensive, and easy-to-store option for container gardening, fabric pots promote healthy root growth.

Labor-Saving Solutions

No doubt about it…gardening may be fun, but it can be hard on your back, legs, knees and shoulders. There are tools, however, that help take the toil out of gardening, enabling just about anyone to spend more time puttering among the plants.

  • Portable kneelers/seats. Hours spent on your knees can make them stiff and painful. A padded kneeler or low seat lets you stay down among your plants while cushioning you’re your joints or taking stress off them altogether.
  • Rolling seats. Wheeled seats are especially helpful for taking the strain off your legs, knees and back by eliminating the need to keep getting up and down. Some can be obtained with attaching carts that help keep your tools handy, and all of them make it easy to get around in the garden.
  • Wheel barrows. Wheel barrows cut down on the number of trips you have to make when transporting loads, as well taking the strain off your back, shoulders and arms.
  • Ergonomic hand tools. Digging, weeding and planting are easier on your hands, arms and tendons with the right tools. Shock-absorbing, ergonomic tools help prevent cramps, carpal tunnel, strain and even blisters.

Worry-Free Watering/Feeding

A productive garden needs plenty of water, fertilizer and care, but you can provide what it needs without having to haul out the hose every day. Special tools designed to make watering easier along with accessories that allow you to go longer between waterings and feedings are available along with self-watering containers and beds that do the work for you.

  • Composters. There’s nothing like composting for making rich, organic soil that produces abundant plants. A traditional composting pile requires a lot of bending, digging and turning, but our Rotary Composter is set at a comfortable height and turns at the touch of the handle.
  • Mulch. Mulching around your plants cuts down not only on weeding, but on watering, too. Our American-made Perma Mulch products work just as well as organic mulch while eliminating the need to trim and re-mulch.
  • Watering tools. Apart from lowering your water bill, rain barrels store up to 50 gallons of water so it’s ready when you need it. Hose reels take the work out of coiling a heavy, muddy garden hose. Self-watering tools and other automatic watering systems mean you spend less time watering and more time enjoying your plants.

With the right tools and a little planning, you’ll spending more time just enjoying your garden instead of working in it – and you’ll feel less tired, too!

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Worry-Free Watering
By Plow & Hearth
2/21/2013 2:39:00 PM  
worry free water

Automatic watering devices are a great way to save time and work when watering the garden, but you will need to consider the needs of your plants before you choose one. A standard sprinkler may work great for the lawn, but it won’t be beneficial for your vegetable garden. Choose a watering device that matches the needs of your garden and the time you have available to water. Here are some popular ones:


Most people think of sprinklers first when it comes to automatically watering the lawn. They do save the work of manual watering, but keep in mind that they’re not always the most efficient devices when it comes to saving water - oscillating sprinklers can lose up to fifty percent of water they put out to evaporation and “drift.” They also don’t water evenly, since more water is put out close to the sprinkler itself. A way to avoid the latter problem is to move the sprinkler around at regular intervals to ensure even watering of the entire lawn.

Solar hummingbird sprinkler

Soaker Hoses

Soakers can be very effective for watering flowerbeds and vegetable gardens because they let water seep out slowly over the length of the hose. This means the plant leaves never become sodden, reducing the likelihood of rot and disease. The water goes straight to the root system and very little is lost to evaporation. Soaker hoses must be left on awhile in order to really soak the roots. Be aware of your soil type when determining how long you should let your soaker hose run.

Root Watering Systems

Root Watering Systems

When used properly, root feeders can be very useful for keeping trees and shrubs hydrated. The key is to be sure to place them not too near the trunk not to set them too deeply into the soil. This is because the roots most efficient in water intake reside away from the trunk and within 12-18 inches of the surface of the soil. Unglazed, earthenware jars (like our Olla Ceramic Irrigation Containers, #55724/55725) offer a low-cost, efficient and easy way to water your plants around the clock.

Olla Water Jars Olla diagram

Self-Watering Planters

Perfect for patios, porches, balconies or even inside the house, self-watering planters make container gardening even more low-maintenance – and give you one less thing to worry about when you go on vacation. Available in a wide variety of attractive sizes and styles, these smart containers not only save you work, they prevent over-watering, too.

When it comes to watering your lawn and garden, you’ll need to experiment to find the method that works best for you, your lifestyle, your chosen plants and your location. Use the above information to help you find the best way to keep your garden hydrated all summer long with a minimum of fuss and expense.

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Outdoor Living  
Lighting Your Garden
By Plow & Hearth
2/21/2013 2:00:00 PM  

You had "just a couple more little loose ends to wrap up" before leaving the office, but before you know it, it's already past 7 pm, daylight is waning quickly, and you're just pulling into your driveway. Fortunately, there's no more haunting or magical time in the garden than twilight, so you quickly remove your work duds, slip into something more comfortable, grab a cold drink, and head out to the garden to relax and unwind. Ahhhhhhhh. If only you could extend twilight for an hour or two, the day would be redeemed. Well, that's where outdoor lighting comes in.

You don't want the hassle or expense of installing underground wiring — just a little romance and illumination. That still leaves you with three very good choices: Luminaries (or other candle supports/enclosures), oil lamps, and solar-charged electrical lighting. Any of these can be used all by itself, or, better yet, together with one or both of the other options.

Canned Sunlight: The Solar Solution

It was only a few years ago that self-contained solar lighting seemed like an exotic, science fiction technology. Now solar lights for the yard and garden are affordable, reliable and come in a variety of styles, from spotlights to decorative string lights.

Three basic components that go into making solar garden lights: the solar cell converts sunlight into electricity, rechargeable batteries store the energy, and the LED (light emitting diodes) “bulbs” produce the light using a tiny amount of energy compared to conventional incandescent bulbs. For added convenience, a light sensor built into the solar cell automatically turns the light on at dusk and off at dawn.

Solar path lights come in variety of styles and finishes to complement many house styles. These path lights put out enough light to safely illuminate walkways or driveways.

Solar spotlights come in a variety of powers, ranging from smaller accent lights to spots powerful enough to light up a wall or a sign. The more powerful spotlights and security lights often have a remote solar panel allowing for placement of the panel in more direct sunlight along with a larger panel size.

Solar-powered string lights are available in different decorative motifs and make it easy to decorate a porch, tree, fence, table umbrella or arbor anywhere in the yard without need for an outlet.

Little or no maintenance is needed for solar lighting. The rechargeable batteries generally last about two years before needing to be replaced.

Oil Lamps: Rustic Light Is Right Outdoors

Before the advent of electrical lighting, there was the oil lamp, and though you’d find very few folks who’d swap the convenience and safety of electric lighting for the flicker of an oil lamp indoors, it’s a completely different story when it comes to outdoor lighting---for porch, patio, garden path or elsewhere in your garden. Somehow, the light of an oil lamp feels warmer, more natural, more rustic, more appropriate in the garden than electrical light ever could.

Candle Power: It's The Measure Of Light

From the time some inspired ancestor of ours first dipped a mullein stalk or something similar in tallow, ignited it in the community fire, and used it to illuminate the night, humans have been fascinated with candles. That fascination has been tempered sometimes with anxiety, however, because exposed candle flames can indeed be a hazard---especially indoors. Outside, though, candles in enclosed holders are reasonably safe, and they contribute to an atmosphere of warmth and romance in the garden after dark. They’re also probably the most versatile and least expensive solution to shedding some light on your private Eden after dark.

Whether it’s solar lighting, oil lamps, candles, or some combination of these that’s the right solution for your situation, one thing you should realize is that there are few---if any—other additions to your garden that will make such a profound impact for so little expense. And a garden, though perhaps beautiful by day, is pure magic when illuminated at night.

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Stink Bugs 101 - History, Prevention and Elimination
By Plow & Hearth
2/21/2013 1:58:00 PM  
stink bug

As the temperatures drop, you see them creep indoors – dusty brown insects about the size of a thumbnail, shaped like tiny shields. They’re stink bugs, and the good news is that they don’t bite, sting, or damage your home. The bad news is that they (along with all their relatives) want to spend the winter inside with you, whether you like it or not. But what exactly are these pesky critters?

What Are Stink Bugs?

Native to Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China, Halyomorpha halys first showed up in Pennsylvania around the turn of the millennium. They have now spread to 33 states (see map below).

stink bug chart

Sometimes known as “shield bugs” because of their distinctive shape, they’re much more commonly known as “stink bugs.” Their recent emergence in the heartland states (often referred to as “the nation’s breadbox”) is especially troubling, as in this area stink bugs are more than a mere nuisance and pose a serious threat to crops.

Stink Bug Q&A

Do stink bugs really stink?

Yes, stink bugs really do stink. A tiny gland located on their thorax between the first and second pair of legs emits a liquid toxin with the pungent odor (described by some as similar to that of smelly feet) that is their primary defense. This odor acts as a repellent to birds or any other predator that might threaten the stink bugs—including humans.

Stink bugs release their odor when chased, picked up, or stepped on. If you have a lot of them in your house, the smell tends to linger (fortunately it can be eliminated by washing down the surfaces with ordinary soap and water).

Why Are There So Many Stink Bugs Everywhere?

Stink bugs reproduce 4 times a year. Each time a stink bug reproduces, it lays between 20-30 eggs on tree and other plant leaves. Stink bugs undergo metamorphosis in three stages: egg, nymph and adult. The eggs are laid in groups on stems and the undersides of leaves. When nymphs emerge, they look similar to the adult stink bug, but may appear rounder rather than shield-shaped. Nymphs go through five instars before becoming adults, usually in 4-5 weeks. The adult stink bug overwinters under boards, logs or leaf litter. In some species, the nymphs may also overwinter.

With no natural predators in the United States, multiple reproductive cycles, fast development and an ability to travel easily (hitching rides on buses and in construction materials), the numbers of stink bugs have exploded, and they’re spreading fast across the country.

What Makes Stink Bugs Such A Nuisance?

While stink bugs aren’t known for biting, stinging, or carrying diseases, they will gobble up your fruits and veggies – and even your ornamental trees and shrubs. What’s even more annoying to urban dwellers is their propensity for moving in: when the weather gets cold, they seek shelter in detached homes and apartment and office buildings alike, sneaking in through cracks, screenless windows and any other openings they can find by the dozens. And because they’re resistant to most conventional pesticides and small enough to hide almost anywhere, once they’re in, they’re tough to get out.

What Is The “Peak Season” For Stink Bugs?

Because stink bugs won’t reproduce indoors and their food is mostly outdoors, they won’t try to move into until it starts to get cold – usually around late September/early October. The insects sneak in through small cracks and openings in chimneys, door and window frames, air conditioning units, attic vents and holes in a home's foundation. They hide out in toasty, dark spots during the winter, and emerge from hibernation late in the Spring. That’s when you’ll notice them become active again.

What’s The Best Way To Get Rid Of Stink Bugs?

Part of what makes stink bugs so difficult to control is the fact that they are resistant to many types of pesticides. If you find stink bugs on your crops, shake them off into a bucket of soapy water – the soapy water keeps them from flying away. Stink bugs in your house? Vacuuming them up is the best way to vanquish the little beasts, but be sure to use a vacuum with a bag that you can remove, seal up and discard when you’re done. Flushing them down the toilet also works.

Whatever you do, don’t smash them – not only do they smell bad, their distinctive odor attracts others of their kind. In addition to deterring predators, a stink bug’s odor sends a chemical message to other stink bugs, alerting them to danger. The scent glands also play a role in attracting mates, and even suppress attacks by harmful microorganisms. A much better way to scoop up the annoying critters is with our all-natural Stink Bug Chute.

The Stink Bug Trap

Because banishing stink bugs from your house can be so tedious and time-consuming, the best way to get rid of them is to prevent them from entering in the first place. Since they’re attracted to light, don’t leave any unnecessary lights on at night (that’s better for your electric bill and the environment, too). And then there’s the RESCUE Stink Bug Trap:

Stink Bug Trap

Made in the USA, the RESCUE! ® Stink Bug Trap is designed to work outdoors, capturing stink bugs before they ruin your garden or get in your home. The reusable trap comes with two, one-week supplies of a pheromone attractant that lures stink bugs in while remaining odor-free to people. Refills are available so you can maintain a stink bug-free environment all season long.

Worried the Stink Bug Trap will attract stink bugs to your yard? Don’t be – it works only to catch those stink bugs within a 20-foot radius, so only the bugs that were already in your yard and garden will be drawn in, trapping them before they damage your garden or invade your home. Nor will the Stink Bug Trap capture those bugs that are beneficial to your garden. Safe and affordable, the Stink Bug Trap is an easier answer to controlling your stink bug problem.

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