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When the Deer are not So Dear: Lyme Disease Alert

Bambi is not your friend, and this column is no joke.

1. What wild animal kills the most people? Deer. Because of automobile accidents.

2. What wild animal spreads most disease to people? Deer. Lyme Disease and others.

3. If you find a tick attached to you, especially if blood filled, see your doctor for preventative antibiotic treatment. Ditto, if you develop a red circle that enlarges. This is important!

4. It is a serious disease. I know a man of 40 who died from a heart attack of undiagnosed Lyme Disease. If untreated, it can have bad long term chronic disability.

5. For more information see Mass. Dept. of Health fact sheets. (www.mass.gov/dph) or call (888) 658-2850.

Most everyone is aware of Lyme disease these days. When I wrote a book in 1995 (The Backyard Battle Plan) for keeping animals out of the garden, it was already endemic in some places. Today it has become a major public health issue, with an estimated 300,000 new cases each year (according to the CDC).

Everyone I know in the landscape business has had it, often many times. My husband also. I brushed ticks off my arm harvesting raspberries that grow against my house wall. Deer ticks are endemic, and everywhere. Not just in open space.

The deer that spread the disease are also everywhere. How many in our town is unclear. Someone suggested hundreds. (Seems high.) However, deer are recorded every night on the surveillance cameras outside the public buildings in my town Center. I have been told that a local Audubon preserve has its own resident herd.

Deer are in my backyard at dusk and dawn. Their damage to the garden is total. And if I yell or bang a shovel or run at them, they just look at me and keep eating. Humans are not their predators in the suburbs. Automobiles are.

Despite what you read and see advertised, no deer repellants work for very long, if at all. I've tried them all.

To ward off the disease carrying ticks, I can not even rake up the leaves or do any pruning, without suiting up. I put on shoes, tall stockings with light color tucked in, a jacket and gloves.... all sprayed with pyrethrum insecticide and pulled on top of my regular clothes. (Never get pyrethrum on skin.)

When I don't get suited up, I have to remember to spray with DEET mosquito repellant, especially shoes and pants or legs. And everyone who walks anywhere in the woods or conservation land, or in their own backyard (if they have seen deer) should take this precaution.

Audubon is very derelict in not having tick warning signs. They invite people and children to enjoy their beautiful garden and programs, as well as the woods and trails. And they should have lots of cans of DEET available for visitors.

As a public health measure, the entrance to all the trails and paths where people walk should have large signs reminding them to spray with DEET, and check for ticks when back home. Dogs and cats are very susceptible and can bring them into the house, so consider pet tick collars.

So Bambi, little romantic Disney creation, despite some folks passionate attachment to your myth, you are our main disease carrying animal. Yet some live in this make believe world and in so doing, put us all at health risk.

Ruth S. Foster is a landscape consultant from Belmont, MA

Be a responsible dog owner!

Dog in the Home - A Brief Checklist

Thinking of adding a four-pawed friend to the family? You're not alone. According to the Humane Society, there are around 78.2 million owned dogs in the United States and 39% of homes have at least one dog.

While it may be relatively easy to become a dog owner, being a successful dog owner is another thing entirely. In addition to treating the dog properly, obedience, good diet, exercise and all the other aspects of raising a healthy, happy dog, there is the issue of being a good dog owner as it pertains to the home.

Not all of your neighbors are dog people. And every town and municipality will have its own set of rules regarding dog ownership, i.e. leash laws, containment policies, etc.

To help in these matters, we've put together a short checklist for Dogs in the Home:

Dog proof your home. In some ways this is like baby-proofing, except that a dog is highly mobile (even as a pup) and can do a heck of a lot more damage with its teeth. With that in mind, move anything that can be broken or chewed to a higher elevation. Block off areas of the home to make off-limits sections and tuck or hide away electrical cords. Keep the lid down on the toilet and mind those shoes!!!

Contain the dog. Dogs should not be allowed to simply roam free in the yard. Invariably, they will wander, cross streets and possibly attack a passerby. Check with your municipality for specific rules regarding containment of your dog. If you don't have an actual fence, you can install a dog run or invisible fencing.

Collar up. The collar serves many purposes. Obviously it is essential for attaching a leash, but it also demonstrates responsible dog ownership to the neighbors in your town. It was assist in your dogs return should it get loose and may prevent any harm coming to the dog because of being misidentified as feral or a stray.

Beware the bark. You wouldn't know if your dog barks all day while your away, but your neighbors will. It's a fast way to a frosty relationship. There are ways to train your dog not to bark unless seriously provoked. If that doesn't work, you can always try a silencing collar.

Socialize. Introducing the dog to the neighborhood is a great way to get the neighbors' support for your dog ownership decision. When first introducing Fido, ensure that he doesn't jump up, and be mindful of a neighbor's reaction to the sight of the dog. Not everyone is a dog person. Respect that. For those neighbors who are not, demonstrating your responsible nature will go a long way towards their tolerance of your pet.

Good luck with your new dog!

Get handy(er) in 2013!

3 Steps to a Better Home in 2013

Are you looking to make some positive changes around the home in 2013? Why not start here?

1) Stay Organized. Was 2012 a year of accumulation? You're not alone. Our consumptive society values materialism but doesn't seem to encourage making space for the new acquisitions. The result is a home better fit for Hoarders than for Beautiful Homes. But we want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem, so we're offering these de-cluttering tips for 2013.

First and foremost, identify your storage space. Basements and attics are the two top contenders here, but those without both or either will need to get creative.

The entry way and mudroom are areas of the home that visitors see first. Keeping those tidy is a must for 2013. Why? Because we're saying so. Get yours in order.

Lastly, get serious about the kitchen space. You're in there everyday, so take a day and make a New Year's effort to organize the kitchen once and for all.

2) Lower Bills. No beating around the bush. Your home has a leak. An energy leak. All that hot air is escaping, and it might as well be dollar signs. Take these 4 steps in the first month of January and use the money you save to do something nice for your family.

Get an Energy Audit. This will ultimately save you significant time and will give you the best information on where you should be addressing leaks, cracks and energy loss locations.

Weatherstrip Doors and Windows. This will take you all of 2 hours, give or take. And the upfront cost is infinitesimal.

Add some more Insulation. Specifically, insulate your water heater, your pipes and attic spaces. There's heat being lost in those areas all winter long, and only you can put an end to it!

3) Be Handy (er). You can do it! Pick up a hammer. Rev that drill a couple times. Okay, now put them both down and come back to the computer. We're going to give you 3 DIY projects that will set you down a path of empowerment and home improvement. If you've done all 3, good for you! Are you available Sunday? We're putting up drywall.

Install a Below-Counter Water Filter. There are very few tools and steps involved in this one. In fact, a sharp mind could probably just follow the instructions and get 'er done. But the visual tutorial can help, too. Bonus: you get to help the planet by eliminating bottle water in your home!

Inspect and Repair your Gutters. In truth, this project isn't that difficult. But the height factor makes it deserving of a more moderate rating. Whatever you, practice safe ladder climbing and consider doing this one with a partner.

Install Crown Molding. This projects can frustrate even the experienced, so take is slow, forgive yourself for little mistakes, and measure twice!

Have you made some improvements already? Tell us about them!

Make sure your dryer vent is connected and free of obstruction and holes.

Be Done with Dust

Does your home have excessive dust? In addition to the hassle of dealing with it there's the effect it can have on Indoor Air Quality as well as those in the household who might have allergies, asthma or a sensitivity to dust.

Although it is just about impossible to completely eliminate dust from the home, you can address several sources and seriously decrease the amount indoors.

According to Energy Star, here are a couple things you can do:

  • Change or clean your furnace and aid conditioner filters once a month.

  • Inspect the clothes dryer vent and make sure it is securely attached to the dryer. It should also be clear of obstructions and free of holes.

  • Leave your shoes at the door. They can track outside debris in, greatly contributing to dust build up inside.

  • For the full list of precautions, see the Energy Star page on Dust.

    The Friskies Fun House

    Friskies Funhouse For Cats

    Cat owners love to spoil their feline friends. And nothing says spoiled like a cat funhouse with a built-in pond, custom aquarium and a touch screen floor.

    Welcome to the Friskies Plus Playhouse, a cats-only romper room that will play host to 10 cats for two weeks, with all the fun enjoyed therein broadcast live on the Friskies Facebook page.

    The idea (besides drawing traffic to their Facebook page) is for cat owners to get inspired by the fun they see these lucky dozen having. Facebook community members will have the ability to vote on daily "extras" to be added to the Playhouse, like climbing trees, tunnels and a bubble machine.

    There will even be opportunities for viewers to interact with the cats, like operating mechanical toys remotely and move and zoom cameras.

    Will you be tuning into the Friskies Plus Playhouse?

    Consumers with indoor air quality concerns should shop for the Greenguard label.

    The E-1 Toxic Emissions Standard

    Indoor air quality should be the concern of every homeowner. Carpets, furniture, paints -- all can emit toxic gasses into the home environment, causing a host of respiratory issues and other health concerns.

    Many consumers will be familiar with certification programs like Greenguard, which performs testing on products and affixes its label to those who meet or exceed standards for indoor air quality.

    Europe, too, has standards for emissions in products. Created by the European Union in Brussels, the "E-1" standard is claimed by some to be the most stringent rating system for furniture in the world.

    Or so says furniture manufacturer Haiku Designs, whose recently released eco-friendly bedroom furniture line meets the E-1 standard.

    According to the company, their line of furniture is one of the only available in the United States with the E-1 rating.

    Impressive, although one might argue with the statement made by a Haiku Designs representative that suggested "there are currently no standards for toxic gas emissions from furniture in the U.S."

    There are standards, they are just not yet government imposed.

    How safe are your home's cleaning products?

    Breast Cancer and Cleaning Products

    In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, The Maid Brigade -- a Green Clean Certified cleaning service -- has posted some interesting information on a possible link between household cleaning products and breast cancer.

    According to the short video on their website, scientists are beginning to find a link between household toxins -- like those found in cleaning products -- and a number of illnesses, including breast cancer.

    The video features Maid Brigade's Consumer Health Advocate Marie Stegner exploring the health risks associated with common household cleaning chemicals as well as ways to keep the family safe.

    Unfortunately for me, Vermont does not have any local Maid Brigade maids, so I can't hire any. I guess it's up to me to buy only safe cleaning products. And keep my house clean.

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