Winter prep: How to avoid rot, mold and termites in the spring
It’s that time of the year again — the glory days of summer are behind us, and it’s time to hunker down and get into the new groove. Say goodbye to birds and buzz, and hello to slush, ice and poor driving conditions.
But with the season change comes a new challenge: getting your home ready for the winter. You might have already looked at the more immediate tasks: changing your furnace filter, checking your door insulation and glancing at the roof to make sure it’s not going to leak on you for the next five months.
However, proper winter preparation involves more than just sealing the innards of a house against cold drafts — it involves protecting the exterior as well. Home owners often find themselves with a water mess in the spring that could be easily prevented this time of year.
Here are some tips for winter preparation for the exterior of your home:
Get the hose off that hose bib
Hose bibs left connected to a hose during the winter cause drama in the spring. The valve freezes up, the ice ruptures the plumbing inside the wall and then disaster awaits. If you turn on the hose, water flows inside the home. Sometimes it causes a massive flood, and sometimes the water is just enough to feed a termite colony. Not to worry though, the mold growing around the termites will kill them. And the rot? It will get them both when the house collapses.
Or — you could avoid rot, mold and termites by disconnecting the hose. On a similar note, you could make sure your hose bib is freeze resistant and that it is installed flush to your home’s exterior wall.
Some of us remember the days when we had to drag a hose to water the lawn. It was a water wasteful practice that burned a ton of time. The advantage? We knew when we were spraying the house, and we could see when we were filling the window wells with water. Sprinkler systems are awesome, but only when they do what they should. When things are wrong? Welcome back to the land of rot, mold and termites.
Winterizing your sprinkler system doesn’t have to be hard — you just need to get the water out of the system. Where water and December happen at the same time, there will be ice and there will be damage. So to avoid water and ice problems in the spring, here are a few more items to check:
Ideally, your sprinkler lines will be placed at least a foot below the surface. If so, that’s great — less risk for you. If you are one of the less fortunate among us, your lines will be just below grass level. When that happens every little swale creates a trap where water will pond. That pond will freeze and turn your sprinkler pipes into house flooding havoc.
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Mold spores don’t receive nearly the attention of the Big 3 tormentors of the allergic – grass, trees, and ragweed
– but allergy experts say it’s a big reason why some continue to suffer even after those seasons wind down.
For those sensitive to mold spores – not to be confused with indoor mold – the first day of Fall 2016 was a landmark day.
With the Thursday morning report, the spore count hit an all-time high of 19,990, according to the Asthma Center’s Dr. Donald J. Dvorin, the official counter for the National Allergy Bureau for the last 30 years.
Consider that 7,000 – that’s the number of spores that pass through a refrigerator-sized parcel of air in a 24-hour period – is considered “extreme.”
Unlike the Big 3, these are spores produced by fungi, rather than pollen grains.
They typically show up in early spring and persist in the fall until the weather turns cold. The Asthma Center says the numbers are highest midsummer to late fall.
Conditions this week have been perfectly aligned for a harvest of mold spores, Dvorin said.
They love to grow on fallen leaves, of which we have plenty around here. The rains Monday might have given them a production boost, and the subsequent warmth and dryness have been ideal for flight.
Inhaling the spores can trigger a reaction that apes that of inhaling tree, grass, or ragweed pollen.
The tree and grass seasons are done, and ragweed is winding down, so if you’re still feeling like you’re under attack from pollen, the culprit might well be a spore.
Mold spores might be the under-the-radar ugly ducklings of the allergens, but about 60 percent of Asthma Center patients who complain of grass, tree, or ragweed allergies also react to mold spores, Dvorin said.
For more on the spores and pollen, check out the Asthma Center site.
A lasagna that you cooked six days ago sits in your fridge . Can you eat it?
According to The Ultimate Mold Guide, a casserole like lasagna keeps fresh inside the refrigerator for between three to five days after cooking. The reason it doesn’t last longer? Mold!
The white and green fuzzy stuff that grosses us out when we spot it in the fridge actually plays an important role in the environment. Without mold, no plant or animal would break down.
Sometimes mold is safe to eat, like the kind on some of our favorite cheeses (We’re looking at you brie, camembert, and Roquefort). Other times mold is a health hazard, including when you spot it on soft fruits and vegetables, leftovers, deli meat, hot dogs and condiments. Harmful mycotoxins can form in your body after ingesting or inhaling mold, so never eat or sniff food you think went bad.
Usually the mold you see is one of the four common molds, Alternaria, Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Penicillium, according to The Mold Guide. But what the eye spots can also just be the very beginning – it’s possible the mold has penetrated deep inside the food. (One exception is hard fruit such as an orange. With such a thick outer rind, it could be that the flesh is perfectly fine to eat.)
Below is a helpful chart to determine how long it takes for your favorite pantry staples to good bad. All the food represented in the guide is fresh, raw or whole.
PALO ALTO (KPIX) — A deadly water mold called Phytophthora (literally, “plant-destroyer”) is threatening to wipe out native California plants.
Local plants have no immunity to the fungus-like organism, which may have hitch-hiked into the state from other countries on infected plants or pots.
Non-profit Grassroots Ecology is battling Phytophthora at their nursery, which provides plants to the Mid-Peninsula Open Space District and the Valley Water District for wildland-restoration projects. Their first line of defense: no one gets to enter the nursery until they’ve cleaned their shoes.
“Alcohol kills the pathogens,” Deanna Giuliano, with Grassroots Ecology, said.
In addition to shoe-cleaning, the nursery in the Palo Alto hills, has taken all plants off the ground to avoid splash contamination and pasteurizes the soil. Hoses and tools are kept off the ground, as well.
“I feel like all these new protocols are helping. I’ve seen a difference in the plants, they look healthier,” Giuliano remarked.
Those protocols are driving up prices. The cost of native plants coming from nurseries like Giuliano’s has doubled.
“Each of the plants in this shade house will eventually be replanted in the wild by the Open Space Preserve but not one of the plants will leave here without first being tested,” Giuliano said.
These efforts aren’t cheap or easy but they’re essential in conquering Phytophthora, according to Cindy Roessler, with the Mid-Peninsula Opens Space District.
“If we go out and put in new native plants in a preserve and they’re diseased, those plants will die but there is also a chance that their roots will spread the disease from those plants into the natural areas around them,” Roessler said.