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Garden Variety: Cleaning houseplants and other tips for winter care

Plants kept indoors, whether they are indoors all year long or only inside during winter, need care like any other plant.

Fix-It Chick: Steps to reduce volatile organic compound exposure

Volatile organic compound vapors are everywhere and they quickly become dangerous when they are allowed to accumulate in high concentrations. Taking steps to reduce exposure to VOC vapors can benefit everyone.

Real estate transfers for Nov. 17, 2017

Following are real estate transfers filed from Nov. 7 through Nov. 13.:

Garden Variety: Uncommon trees add subtle color to winter garden

When selecting plants to add winter interest in the garden, consider using trees and shrubs with interesting bark and/or branches to add subtle color and texture.

Fix-It Chick: Achieve perfect flush with simple adjustments

When it comes to flushing toilets, there is a happy medium somewhere between using too much and using too little water with each flush. Using too much water is expensive and wasteful; using too little water is frustrating and unsanitary.

Garden Variety: Colorful fruit creates late season interest in garden

Beautyberry produces brilliant, glossy purple berries borne in clusters along erect stems. Leaves are a rather mundane green, so the plant is best tucked in with spring and summer performers. There are two species — Callicarpa americana, native to the southeastern U.S., and Callicarpa dichotoma which is native to portions of Asia. Both species may die back to the ground in especially cold winters but are otherwise hardy and have few pests. Beautyberry grows in full sun to part shade.

Fix-It Chick: Rotary tool versatile in home repair

The high speed of a rotary tool allows it to easily cut bolts, etch glass and remove grout, while the size of the tool makes it perfect for detailed and delicate work.

Garden Variety: Scary plants more delicate than they appear

October is the season for scary things, and the plant world has plenty of offerings to awaken a sense of fear in gardeners and non-gardeners alike. From the carnivorous Venus flytrap to the bat flower that is easily mistaken for an actual bat, there are plenty of scary plants from which to choose.

Fix-It Chick: Taping, mudding rewarding during small drywall jobs

Taping and mudding new drywall is a job best left to the professionals, but for small jobs where perfection is not an issue, taping and mudding can be a fun and rewarding project.

Garden Variety: Find a constructive use for hedge apples

The chartreuse, bumpy, softball-sized fruit of the Osage orange tree, known as a hedge apple, is finally gaining some value as a fall decoration.

Fix-It Chick: Carve a pumpkin like a pro this Halloween

Carving a pumpkin may be child’s play, but the tools employed to do so are best used by an adult.

Fix-It Chick: Caulking bathtub can prevent water damage to floors, walls

If the caulk around your tub is cracked, black, or just plain icky, a tube of caulk and a wet finger can save you from disaster. A well-placed bead of caulk keeps water from seeping behind the tub and damaging the floor and walls.

Garden Variety: Weather can affect fall color forecast

Mid-October is usually the peak of fall color for trees and landscape plants in and around the Lawrence area, and hopefully trees and plants will catch up with the calendar soon. September’s extra-warm temperatures slowed down the color development slightly, but recent rains and cooler weather should get plants back on track. Leaf color development also indicates good timing for fall garden cleanup.

Fix-It Chick: Choose the right charcoal for your barbecue

Since the invention of fire, man’s love for barbecuing has seldom faltered. The invention of cooking charcoal in the 1920s put a new spin on barbecuing and then almost met its demise when propane grills were invented in the 1950s. Grilling enthusiasts rallied in the late 20th century to bring back a love for charcoal cooking so strong that charcoal has become a boutique-like industry.

Garden Variety: Raking leaves presents options

Raking leaves is a standard of fall chores, but in recent years the need for it has become more of a debate. Are fallen leaves really causing harm being left where they lie on the lawn or garden? Or do they provide much needed nutrients and organic matter for other plants? The answer is usually somewhere in the middle and as always, dependent on the specific situation.