Clearing the White Stuff with Safety in Mind: Snow Thrower 101

Clearing the White Stuff with Safety in Mind: Snow Thrower 101

For sellers who are trying to keep their property in “showing shape” over the winter and for new buyers who have just moved into their home, a snow thrower (a.k.a. snow blower) can make quick work of snow removal chores. The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) encourages homeowners to ready their snow throwers and brush up on basic safety reminders before the snow flies. Here are key questions to ask yourself before firing up your snow thrower for the first time this season.

Have you read your owner’s manual? Read up for safe handling procedures. If you lost your manual, you can look it up online (and store a copy on your computer so you have the manual available to reference in the future).

Have you checked your equipment? Make sure all equipment is completely powered off then adjust cables and check the auger. If you forgot to drain the fuel before storing the machine, do that now.

Is your equipment easy to access? Move your equipment to a convenient and accessible location, so you can get to it easily when you need it.

Have you purchased the right fuel?  Gas stations may be closed after a storm so have some fuel on hand. Be sure to use the correct fuel, as recommended by your equipment’s manufacturer (for more information on fueling properly see www.LookBeforeYouPump.com). Use fresh fuel in your snow thrower. If it’s more than 30 days old, it can phase separate and cause operating problems. Make sure fuel is stored safely and out of the reach of children.

Are you fueling safely? Before you start the engine, fill up the fuel tank on your snow thrower outside while the engine is cold. Never add fuel to a running or hot engine.

Are batteries charged? If using a battery/electric-powered snow-thrower, make sure batteries are fully charged in case electricity goes out during a winter storm.

Is the area you intend to clear free of obstructions or hidden obstacles? Snow can hide objects like doormats, hoses, balls, toys, boards, wires, and other debris. Remove these to keep people, pets and the machine safe.

Are you dressed properly for winter weather? Locate your safety gear now, and place it in an accessible closet or location in your home. Plan to wear safety glasses, gloves and footwear that can handle cold and slippery surfaces.

Will you keep pets and children inside? Kids and pets love to play in the snow, but it’s best to keep them inside while you are using your snow thrower. Do not allow them to play in the snow as it is tossed out of the snow thrower’s chute.

Do you have a clean out tool or stick? NEVER put your hands inside the auger or chute. Use a clean out tool (or stick) to unclog snow or debris from your snow thrower.

Do you turn off your snow thrower if you need to clear a clog? Always turn off your snow thrower and wait for all moving parts to come to a complete stop before clearing any clogs or debris.

Will you use extreme caution on slopes and hills? Do not attempt to clear steep slopes and use caution when changing directions on slopes or inclines.

Do you know where your cord is? If you have an electric-powered snow thrower, be aware of where the power cord is at all times. Avoid tripping. Do not run over the power cord.

For more information go to www.OPEI.org.

 

The Backyard Generation Gap:  Tips for Selling the Backyard to Buyers from Various Generations

The Backyard Generation Gap: Tips for Selling the Backyard to Buyers from Various Generations

Across the board, the majority of Americans – 86% according to a recent Harris poll for the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) – say it’s important to have a living landscape and grass around their living spaces. But for Realtors®, understanding how various generations view and value the family lawn can be the difference between closing the sale and having a potential buyer walk away.

Here are some tips for selling the family yard to each generational group.

    • Boomers (1946-1964):
      You may think Baby Boomers are all about downsizing, but not necessarily. Research by Demand Institute found that as many as 46% of Boomer buyers were looking for larger, more expensive homes than they currently own. A bigger home likely means a bigger yard (and a bigger commission for you!). Boomers are looking for connectedness – an emotional bonding – to their home. Focus on helping them see themselves enjoying life with their children and grandchildren in the outdoor living room. Additionally, Boomers are concerned about health and vitality, so you can talk about the health benefits of spending time in the family yard – from improved memory to lower stress and better heart health, just to name a few.
    • Gen X (1965-1976):
      This group is in their peak earning years and have the highest median income of all age groups, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report. Gen Xers are also the most likely to purchase a multi-generational home. They are Earth-loving, conscientious foodies who appreciate getting their hands dirty outside and in their kitchens. Sell the backyard as a place to cultivate sustainability by growing a garden. Also, focus on the many environmental benefits of the living landscape, which reduces heat (and heating bills), captures and filters rainwater, reduces dust and particulate matter, produces oxygen, absorbs carbon, and more. You can find even more environmental benefits by reviewing the Living Landscapes Fact Book.
    • Millennials/Gen Y (1977-1995):
      Millennials make up the largest share of home buyers, according to the NAR research. Millennials are also pet owners who see animals as friends and pets as family. The backyard is an easy sell for this group who needs the space to accommodate their pets and growing families. Research shows kids and pets are happier and healthier when they have access to green space. Help your Gen Y buyer envision the potential for a pet paradise in the backyard. For instance, contrary to popular belief, sturdy grass species can take the pounding and activity of an active pup. Natural grass is also cooler and less irritating to sensitive paws and little feet than artificial turf. Plants placed close together help designate areas that are off-limits to the dog.
    • Gen Z (1996-Present):
      Gen Z, which is just starting to enter the real estate market, has an affinity for technology and diversity. An activist generation, they value individuality and experiences over objects. A survey by Homes.com indicates that the majority of Gen Zers (86%) want to own rather than to rent, and they want to buy a home before they turn 30. Reporting higher levels of stress and anxiety than other generations, focusing on the well-being benefits of the family yard is a good tactic with this group. Additionally, when selling the yard to Gen Zers you can tout the rise in robotic outdoor power equipment (think of a Roomba for your grass) that can be monitored and managed on a smartphone.

Familiarize yourself with additional health and well-being stats by reviewing OPEI’s Living Landscapes Fact Book, and check out www.SaveLivingLandscapes.com for more information.

5 Mistakes New Homeowners Make in Their Yards & How to Avoid Them

5 Mistakes New Homeowners Make in Their Yards & How to Avoid Them

A yard is something many new homeowners look forward to when they purchase a property. After all, it’s a place to make memories with family and friends, to let kids and the family dog play safely, and to customize to individual needs and desires. But there are some mistakes that are easy for new homeowners to make. The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) shares the most common pitfalls and offers advice on how to avoid them.

  • Not having the right equipment for the space.
    Make sure the lawn mower is the right size for the new lawn. If the lot at the new property is more wooded, a chainsaw and/or hedge trimmer that the buyer doesn’t have yet may be required. Or perhaps a homeowner is moving from an apartment to a single-family home for the first time and needs all new equipment.
  • Choosing the wrong plants.
    Homeowners need to consider the micro-climate so their living landscapes thrive. Check the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map (https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/) to determine which plants will do best in the new location.
  • Not considering lifestyle needs.
    Homeowners also need to consider their lifestyle when selecting and placing their living landscapes. Those who travel frequently will want to choose low-maintenance plants, flowers and shrubs. Homeowners with a family and/or pets need a large area of sturdy turfgrass for running and playing. Pro tip: plants can be used strategically to designate “activity zones” in the yard – separating a children’s play area from the dining space, for example.
  • Watering incorrectly.
    Plants will grow stronger and work harder – creating deeper, healthier roots – if they have to seek out water. Watering deeply, but less frequently, allows moisture to reach the roots of the grass and trees. Also, watering early in the morning reduces excess evaporation. Those who want to take the guesswork out of watering should install soil moisture sensors and drip irrigation systems.
  • Cutting the grass too short.
    Proper mowing helps create a lower-maintenance, drought-tolerant lawn. Preferred length varies by grass type, but the general rule of thumb is to cut only the top third of the grass blades off at any given time. Taller grass blades shade the soil and keep it cooler, helping control weeds. Taller grass is also softer to walk on – important for little feet and paws.

To learn more about how to care for living landscapes and to learn how they benefit our health and well-being, go to SaveLivingLandscapes.com.

How to Have a Great Lawn for Your Easter Egg Hunt

How to Have a Great Lawn for Your Easter Egg Hunt

Spring has arrived and Easter morning will be here before we know it. Families nationwide will be in their yards and seeking perfect Easter photo opportunity. Get your lawn in shape with a few tips from the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), is an international trade association representing power equipment, small engine, utility vehicle, golf car and personal transport vehicle manufacturers and suppliers.

“You want to spruce up your lawn before the kids are out there hunting for eggs,” said Kris Kiser, President and CEO of OPEI. “If you tidy up the lawn before Easter morning, they’ll have a great time and you’ll get better pictures,. And, a great lawn, starts with a great trim.”

Here are a few tips to help:

  • Tidy the yard. Remove leaves, branches, and sticks. Make sure pathways are clear and ready for foot traffic and mowing. Clean up playsets and other items that spent the winter outside.
  • Assess the lawn’s condition. Look for dog poop, holes in the ground, pests, or other hazards—and remove or repair them. Spring is the time to fix bare patches in the lawn by re-seeding or re-sodding. Remove thatch (decaying items like leaves, grassroots and stem accumulation) so nutrients and water can reach grass roots, and disease and pests are discouraged from nesting.
  • Plan where the Easter egg hunt will be. Use rope, tape or ribbon to mark boundaries so children know where they can go. You’ll want to avoid having excited little feet trample any bare lawn patches you are re-seeding or repairing, so avoid these areas if you can. Most grass varieties are hardy and can withstand foot traffic, but keep more delicate plants, such as flower beds, from eager hands and feet.
  • Cut your grass a few days in advance. Your lawn will benefit from the clippings being left behind on the grass, so it’s better to cut a couple of days before the egg hunt so clippings dry and don’t stick to the eggs. Use a freshly sharpened mower blade, for a clean cut, and always mow to the recommended height for the grass variety you have,, the season, and the growing conditions. Proper mowing, including choosing the correct height of grass, creates a low-maintenance, more drought-tolerant lawn.
  • Keep by-standers indoors while mowing (and hiding eggs). Children and pets should be inside and supervised when any outdoor power equipment is being used. Plus it will be easier to keep the egg hunt a secret from your kids—and curious pets!
  • Hide with safety in mind. Consider your child’s age when selecting hiding locations for the eggs. Young children will run around the lawn and find eggs. Older children might need more complexity such as hiding eggs in shrubbery.

For more outdoor power equipment tips, go to www.opei.org.

10 Easy Ways to Get a Dose of Vitamin N(ature) in Just 10 Minutes

10 Easy Ways to Get a Dose of Vitamin N(ature) in Just 10 Minutes

A growing body of scientific evidence proves getting outside (i.e. being an “outsider”) is good for our health and well-being. Exploring and appreciating nature – in our own backyards, community parks, and schoolyards – reduces stress, improves memory, boosts heart health, and offers a host of other benefits for our minds and bodies.

“Having a living landscape of grass, trees, shrubs, and flowering plants is good. Using this outdoor space to reap the health benefits it offers is even better,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), whose Foundation created TurfMutt an environmental education and stewardship program that teaches the value and benefits of the outdoors. “Getting outside, even for just 10 minutes, can do much to boost your mood, productivity, and quality of life.”

On its 10th Anniversary, TurfMutt shares 10 easy ways you can enjoy nature in under 10 minutes.

  1. Take a walk. Lace up your athletic shoes and head out for a walk around the block or to your neighborhood park. While you’re out, commit to turning off your cell phone and enjoying the natural setting around you (it’s just 10 minutes, after all!).
  2. Get your kids moving. A rousing game of tag or hide and seek in the family yard is a great way to counter computer and screen time.
  3. Play with your dog. A dog’s favorite “room” of the house is your family yard. Take inspiration from your pooch and spend a few minutes outside playing Frisbee or fetch.
  4. Clean up your outdoor living room. Make simple work of yard chores by breaking them up into smaller chunks. Ten minutes is enough time to put a serious dent in weeding a flower bed, sweeping off the back patio, or picking up debris from your lawn.
  5. Plant something. It is spring planting season, so take 10 minutes to dig a hole and introduce a new plant or get started on your vegetable garden or flower beds.
  6. Dine al fresco. Taking a meal outside is one of the easiest – and most nourishing – ways to enjoy the outdoor space around you. Have breakfast with the backyard birds. Lunch at a park near your office. Enjoy your coffee break under a shade tree.
  7. Study or read a book. Take the “work” out of homework by moving study or reading sessions to your backyard or community green space.
  8. Swap a (short) commute for walking or biking. Do you typically use your car to run down to the mailbox, to a nearby convenience store, or to run other nearby daily errands? If it’s not too far, take a short walk or ride your bike instead.
  9. Meet outside. Fresh air can be a catalyst for fresh ideas, so take your next brainstorming session for work outdoors. Need to have a heart-to-heart with your child? Scientists have discovered that communication between parents and children is more connected when conducted outside.
  10. Sit back and relax. Sometimes the best thing to do is absolutely nothing at all. Spend some time in a hammock, spread a blanket out on the grass, or take a meditation break outside to soak up the nature around you.

Learn More. For more information on the benefits of our living landscapes and how to be an outsider, visit SaveLivingLandscapes.com. For more about the TurfMutt program, go to TurfMutt.com.

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