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readysetgrillbanner
 
Even if your BBQ has been housed in a garage or shed all winter, chances are you didn’t clean and maintain it before you put it away last fall!
 
To keep it in good working order, and ensure safe operation, it’s important that you spend a little time on spring maintenance before you fire it up for this first time this spring
 
First, remove the cooking grates and soak them in hot, soapy water. Alternatively, you can lay them down on a protective sheet (tarps are great for this), and spray them down with oven cleaner. Either way, let them sit for at least two hours.
 
If your BBQ has lava rocks, or similar, remove and replace them. If they’re not in too bad a shape, you can soak them in a bucket of hot, soapy water to break down grease and food residue. Next, remove the heat deflectors, or flavorizer bars – and do the same thing with them.
 
readysetgrill1Then, thoroughly brush out the inside of the grill, removing all loose pieces of food, debris, etc. Many BBQ experts advise leaving the greasy build-up on the inside of the housing as a metal protectant.
 
Personally, I remove it once a year – then give the entire housing of my BBQ a good scrubbing with a stiff brush and hot soapy water. This requires some elbow grease!
 
Once it’s clean – I rinse it thoroughly with a pressurized stream of water from my exterior hose – then I leave it open in the sun until it’s completely dry.
 
If you decide to do it the same way I do, you must first remove the grease drip pan – and give that a thorough cleaning as well.
 
I warm mine slightly in the oven, then wipe out as much of the grease and drippings as I can with a wad of paper towel. Then I scrub out any remaining grease with hot soapy water and my stiff brush. Rinse well, and I let it dry in the sun along with the BBQ.
 
Although some experts say you should test your burners at this point, others (and I agree with them) advise cleaning out the burners first. I do this with a very fine wire brush or a metal skewer, poking it carefully into each burner hole to ensure they are free of debris.
 
Then I take a pipe cleaner style brush, and run it through the inside of the burner tube, cleaning the brush with each pass, until it comes out clean. To be sure, I then gently tap the ends of the burners on a firm surface, to make sure there’s nothing left inside.
 
Replace the burners in the BBQ housing – then check your propane tank and your hose assembly for leaks by brushing all connections with soapy water, then turning on the gas (outdoors!) for just a moment and watching for bubbles. If you see bubbles, repair the leak BEFORE testing your burners. If everything is OK, test your burners. They should now burn perfectly evenly.
 
By now, the grates and deflectors and flavorizer bars are ready to be scrubbed in their soapy water bath, or wiped clear of the oven cleaner. You should find the dirt and debris come off easily. Once they’re free of all debris, rinse them well and let them dry.
 
readysetgrill2Drain your lava rocks, rinse them thoroughly, and spread them out in the sun to dry as well.
 
While they’re drying, clean off and shine up the outside of your BBQ. Wash it down well (car wash is great for this!) and dry it off.
 
Replace all the internal parts, then light your BBQ again and let it warm up enough to be absolutely certain all of the internal parts, and your lava rocks, are completely dry.
 
Turn the BBQ off, let it cool down – and replace the cover (it is a myth that covering a BBQ makes it rust.)
 
Congratulations! Your BBQ is now ready for another season of great grilling!

 
 


Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald

 

Alexandra Kelter

 
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.
 

 
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As hard as this long, snowy winter has been on us – it’s been a lot harder on our resident birds and migratory species returning home. Because of the deep snow, birds are struggling to find food, and many are dying from hunger or becoming too weak to fly.
 
helpinghand3
Robins and American Woodcocks are finding things particularly difficult, in part because they have very selective feeding habits. Many Nova Scotians are finding dead birds, or birds sitting immobile at the side of roads or in their backyards.
 
The good new is that you can help.
 
For American Woodcocks, soaking some cat kibble in warm water, or using chunky canned cat food, and spreading it on any exposed ground under trees can be life saving for weakened birds.
 
Only putting out small amounts is a good idea, because the food can also attract predators like house cats, and starving birds are often too weak to fly away.
 
If you don’t mind going to some extra trouble, earthworms or mealy worms are also welcomed by these birds, and can be obtained in many specialty or big-box pet stores.
 
For Robins, a mix of soaked cat kibble, chopped hard-boiled eggs, chopped apple, fresh or frozen berries and chunky canned cat food is eagerly eaten. Spread it on the ground in clear areas, and watch hungry robins arrive.
 
It’s important to check your feeding areas daily, removing any spoiled food, and replacing it with fresh. Most experts recommend that birds not be fed bread as they can choke on it, and it does not carry the correct nutritional value.
 
birdfeedbagiconEven our resident birds are struggling. Black Oil Sunflower seeds are the preferred food for many Nova Scotia backyard birds.
 
Keeping feeders full of this readily available seed is a huge help in reducing bird mortality. Keeping feeders away from windows reduces the risk of bird strikes, another major cause of bird mortality.
 
While the weather is cold, seed mix containing cracked corn and nuts helps birds keep warm and fattens them with the correct oils – naturally contained in these feed mixtures.
 
Bird suet is good too, but remove it from the nylon net packaging it comes in, because birds can get caught up in the netting, and will become seriously injured or die in their struggles to escape.
 
With nesting time imminent, feeding birds is especially important. But you can help in other ways as well. Small fabric scraps, strips of knitting wool, cotton batting – hung in trees in thin shreds are taken by birds to line nests and create warm, cozy environments for both eggs, and later, baby birds.

 
If you’re going to help, it’s important to do it regularly (every day) because the birds will quickly become accustomed to the food and will hang-out in your yard, limiting their ability to find food elsewhere.
 
Until the snow and ice retreat enough that at least half the visible ground is clear, continuing to feed can mean the difference between life and death for many birds.
 
The best part? The birds will reward you by keeping your garden free of bugs this summer, and providing glorious colour and song throughout the warmer months.
 
 


Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald

 

Alexandra Kelter

 
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.
 

 
lawnrecovery
 
It’s been a tough winter… in fact, it’s still a tough winter.
 
But, eventually, the snow and ice will melt… and just how tough this winter has been will be fully revealed by the state of your lawn.
Giving your lawn a little TLC will help it return to good health quickly.

 
Salt and chemical ice melters end up on your lawn, and can kill your grass over the winter. This is usually most noticeable along the road and driveway edges of your lawn, where your grass will be brown.
 
As soon as the weather permits, soak the affected areas to wash away the excess salt and chemicals. After two to three heavy waterings, plant grass seed and apply a good starter fertilizer to speed up recovery.
 
Dog urine contains high levels of nitrogen, which can harm grass. Begin repair by soaking the areas to dilute and remove the nitrogen. Repair badly damaged areas by overseeding or patching with new sod. One of my favorite tricks is to use lime on badly damaged areas, it neutralizes the nitrogen from the urine, and allows your new seed or sod to quickly establish itself.
 
aeratingPiles of snow and ice sitting on your lawn cause compaction. If putting a shovel in the ground in the spring is hard, your lawn is most likely compacted.
 
The solution: aerate your lawn. But wait until your lawn is at peak growing season in late spring for the best results. Ideally, lawns should be aerated in spring and fall – to allow maximum moisture and nutrient absorption.
 
Bare spots should be fixed right away so that weeds cannot take hold. Select a grass seed that suits your growing conditions (amount of shade and sun, traffic, etc.).
 
Make sure you also use a good starter fertilizer, and ensure your grass seed is watered in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions to ensure seeds sprout properly.
 
limepelletslawncareMost parts of Nova Scotia have naturally acidic soil, which is great for spruce trees and other evergreens, but not ideal for thick, green lawns.
 
Liming your lawn in early spring, and again in mid-spring (before it is really hot outside), will very quickly give you a thicker, greener lawn that is resistant to disease and weeds.
 
Slow-release, pelletized lime is readily available in home improvement stores and garden centres, and gives your lawn an ideal start in spring, and a great pre-winter finish in fall. After liming, wait a couple of weeks before applying your spring fertilizer.
 
It takes a little elbow grease, but these simple steps will give you great results in short order. With the right start in spring, your lawn will quickly be lush and green, and much easier to maintain once the hot weather sets in!

 
 


Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald

 

Alexandra Kelter

 
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.