Get involved during Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Have some fun to help us grow our donation

Through our annual One by One campaign, we’ve been spreading awareness about breast cancer since August. This month, we’re increasing our efforts to get the word out and raise funds in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

During October, our social media activity is tied to our donation, so the more you engage with us, the more we donate! Help us raise funds for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) by interacting with us. Here’s how:
  • Like SECURA’s Facebook page. We’ll donate $1 to the BCRF for each new like in October. 
  • Pinkify your profile. Turn your profile picture pink to spread awareness, and we’ll give another dollar to the BCRF. 
  • Identify our pink mystery photos to be entered into our grand prize drawing for an iPad. Simply comment with your guess on our Facebook page. We post a new photo every Wednesday. 
  • Check back weekly for other fun ways to engage, like sharing our posts or telling us your favorite inspirational quote. 
 You also can spread the word to others. Simply share this video with your friends: bit.ly/secura1by1

Top 10 tips for fall garden cleanup

As another summer comes to an end, most homeowners see their vegetable gardens and flower beds lose their luster. It is tempting to wait until spring to tackle the chore of removing those frost-bitten leaves and the occasional overripe tomato left on the vine. However, proper cleanup done in the fall can improve overall plant health for the following year, aid in minimizing unwanted pests, and eliminate soil-borne diseases that can overwinter in even the coldest regions.

Make these 10 tips part of your fall routine to improve the productivity of fruiting plants and enhance the beauty of ornamentals for next year’s growing season.

  1. Clean up fallen fruit or vegetables from beneath trees, tomato plants, and other edibles.
  2. Remove annual flowers to prevent them from reseeding.
  3. Cut back perennial flowers to eliminate hiding places for slugs and other unwanted pests.
  4. Chop up leaves with your lawn mower and spread the leaf mulch over garden beds to stop weeds and protect plants from frosts that can cause the ground to heave in cold regions.
  5. Rake remaining leaves to prevent compaction over winter, which can suffocate grass and lead to dead spots.
  6. The proper summer mowing height for lawns is 3 inches, according to Kevin Jarek, Crops, Soils, & Horticulture Agent with the University of Wisconsin Extension. However, the last cut of the season should be 1.5 inches tall to prevent grass from matting down and creating an optimal setting for fungal diseases. A lower fall mowing height also can minimize pests like voles from tunneling beneath snow.
  7. Water newly planted trees thoroughly before the ground freezes. This is especially true for evergreens like boxwood, junipers, and arborvitae, which continue to lose moisture throughout the winter. Consider spraying these types of evergreens with an anti-desiccant spray to prevent winter burn and die-back, or wrap them in burlap.
  8. Detach and drain garden hoses to prevent burst pipes, leading to expensive home repairs.
  9. Wrap the trunks of newly planted fruit trees to prevent the freezing of bark following occasional high temperatures in the winter season. This damage is called sun scald. Wrapping trunks also helps deter rabbits and rodents from nibbling on the bark.
  10. Lastly, place all your plant debris in a compost bin or pile. Over time, it will break down to provide what many gardeners refer to as nutrient-filled “black gold,” which they will mix in their soil to aid plant growth. However, do not include diseased plant material, as those diseases can survive and re-infect next year’s plantings. Bag and discard them.

Following these simple tips will promote a healthy and beautiful garden the coming year. It also will give a head start next spring when you are most eager to get your hands in the dirt. Happy gardening!

Tips and tools for safely cleaning gutters

Cleaning your gutters is among the most laborious of fall maintenance chores. Falling leaves from surrounding trees will not only cover your lawn, but land in your home’s gutters too. The result can be overflowing rain water that often leads to flooded basements, weakened foundations, and other costly water damage. Depending on the construction of your home, cleaning the gutters may be a simple task involving a bucket, ladder, and pair of gloves. Other homes, however, appear to require skilled aerial acrobats from the Barnum & Bailey Circus to reach the high areas safely.

No matter your circumstance, it’s important to have the right tools and follow some basic safety precautions.

Helpful tools
  • A ladder – it should be secure with wide rungs for stability, and equipped with proper locking mechanisms. Also make sure the ladder is tall enough; you should never stand on the top rung or highest step. An extension ladder should always have at least three rungs over the top of the roof to allow you to get on and off with ease. Move the ladder often to avoid overreaching, and wear secure protective footwear – never flip flops or sandals.
  • Waterproof work gloves – will help protect hands from foul-smelling debris and potential encounters with stinging insects.
  • A small trowel – like one used in the garden, will help scoop out materials.
  • A high-pressure garden hose – can help clear smaller remaining leaves.
  • Safety glasses – they’re a good idea too.
  • A five-gallon bucket – tethered to a rope, it can contain all the waste and be lowered to a trusty helper below to empty into a wheelbarrow before hoisting it back up. A leaf blower – some are equipped to help the process along and may require the use of hearing protection.

If you live in a heavily wooded area where leaves and debris from overhead trees are inevitable, or cleaning your gutters proves to be a dangerous aerial escapade, it may be time to consider hiring a professional, but make sure they have proper insurance coverage.

You can also purchase specially designed gutters or attachments to minimize the need to climb that ladder. But, do your research. According to Consumer Reports, many of the professional products are disappointing, while some do-it-yourself products found at local home improvement stores don’t fare much better.

Tree stand safety tips for the big hunt

“I always use a safety harness,” said Scott, an avid deer hunter from Wisconsin. Scott knows all too well how quickly a beloved pastime can turn to tragedy, recalling how his nephew broke his back falling from a tree stand. “I clip onto a rope connected to the tree before I even take one step up the tree,” he said. “And I stay clipped in until I’m back on the ground.”

Falls from tree stands continue to be the leading cause of injury for hunters. The good news is that these falls are preventable. Hunting from a tree stand allows you to have a better view of your target while avoiding detection from your prey, but take several safety precautions.

Use a full body harness
82 percent of hunters who fall from tree stands are not wearing a full body harness, according to the Tree Stand Manufacturers Association. Several models are available so you can find the best fit while making sure your movement is unrestricted.

Take a free online safety course
A few minutes of your time can test your knowledge and teach you a few things too.
Tree Stand Safety Course

Follow these additional tips
  • Purchase a tree stand with a large enough platform and seating area to help you feel more secure. Read any weight restrictions and plan accordingly.
  • Keep your hands free when climbing. Use a rope to haul up your firearm or bow. Always keep firearms unloaded until you are securely in place in your tree stand.
  • Select a healthy, straight tree that will work well with the guidelines outlined for your tree stand specifications.
  • Let people know where you'll be hunting, where your vehicle is parked, and when you intend to return. When possible, hunt with a buddy.
  • Carry a cell phone, walkie-talkie, or other means of calling for help.
  • Take your time and know your limitations. If it feels insecure or too high, it is.

Follow these tips and stay safe while enjoying the outdoors. For further tips and information, inquire with your state’s Department of Natural Resources or visit the Treestand Manufacturers Association website.

Top 10 chain saw safety tips

The fall season is a prime time for clearing out dead or diseased trees and damaged branches. In addition to personal home use, chain saws are a necessary tool for industries like forestry, landscaping, and utility and construction workers.

The potential for injury is high. The Consumer Product Safety Commission found that the number of chain saw accidents requiring medical attention increased from 70,000 to 135,000 annually over a five-year period. Avoid injuries by following these 10 important safety tips.

1.    Keep the chain sharp and make sure all fittings are lubricated and properly tightened.

2.    Refill the gas reservoir a minimum of 10 feet away from any ignition sources. Never smoke while operating a chain saw, and never fuel a saw while it is running.

3.    Start the saw on the ground, never while resting it on your leg.

4.    Clear the area of any obstructions, such as rocks, nails, or other metal before cutting.

5.    Wear proper protective equipment, including hand, foot, leg, eye, face, hearing, and head protection. Legs and feet receive the highest number of injuries.

6.    Do not wear loose-fitting clothing.

7.    Be certain of the trajectory of falling trees and limbs, and plan accordingly before cutting. Falling branches and trees result in many injuries.

8.    Do not cut with the tip of the saw, which produces kick-back.
  
9.    Consumer Reports recommends only cutting tree limbs you can reach from the ground.

10.    Never operate a gas-powered chain saw in confined quarters where carbon monoxide can build up.

Practicing these tips is an important part of maintaining safety, reducing workers’ comp claims, and minimizing injuries. The University of Minnesota Extension provides more in-depth safety tips, including felling techniques and a daily operation checklist. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also can provide additional safety information.