Fall Home Maintenance: Clearing Leaves

When the leaves change color, it is one of the most loved moments of fall. Their bright colors add so much beauty to the world. With the leaves changing, it is means it is time for them to fall. While leaves can look pretty both on the ground or on the trees, leaves can cause some issues around the home.

 We suggest focusing on problem areas such as gutters, flower beds, wood surfaces, and walkways for clearing leaves.

  • Clearing leaves from your gutters will ensure they can drain properly in the upcoming season.
  • Removing leaves from flower beds will prevent animals from setting up residence close to your home. It will also allow plenty of sunlight to reach the soil so in the springtime your plants will thrive.
  • Leaves can potentially stain wooden areas such as a deck or porch. It can also cause the wood to rot. Sweep them off as often as you can!
  • Removing leaves from walkways is important as they can cause the area to be slick when it rains.
Someone removing leaves from a gutter with bright orange gloves.

Clearing leaves in your yard is not a must, but it is good for the environment. However, it does help to keep the areas around your home clean and safe if you choose to pick them up.

Removing leaves is a simple process, you can either use a rake, mulch them up with a lawnmower, or gather them in a pile with a leaf blower. Once they are collected into a pile, there are several solutions for ridding the leaves.

  • Use the leaves for your compost pile
  • Burn leaves (check your local area to make sure there is not an ordinance about burning leaves or if there is a burn ban)
  • Bag them for trash
  • See if your community has leaf pickup days

Leaf maintenance can be a year-round job, so do not stress every time a leaf blows into your yard from somewhere else. Creating a good routine will help to keep the project manageable.

For more items you need to prepare your home for, check out our fall maintenance list.


7 Ways to Use Pumpkins this Harvest Season

Late every September, we welcome a season of cooler weather, changing colors, and a time of plenty. For centuries across the world – cultures have celebrated the fall season as a time of harvest. During this time, we reflect on the year we have enjoyed thus far and all the reasons we have to be thankful. So it makes sense that we use vibrant colors, various plants, and wonderful foods to celebrate the harvest.

One of the most popular signs of harvest time is the pumpkin! Bright, versatile, and delicious – the pumpkin is often the center of attention. From classic carving, to the unusual – these ideas are sure to help you celebrate!

 1. Cooking

Pumpkin seeds make for a great snack and all you have to do is bake them! Plus, you can make pie. But it doesn’t stop there. Try making a soup! Check out these great ideas!

2. Carving

Carve a scary face, the letter your last name starts with, or a super hero for the kids! Get some inspiration here.

 3. Painting

Don’t want all the mess of carving? Simply paint a design, stripes, or anything you want for a finished look!

Painting a pumpkin
Make a party or event around decorating your pumpkin!

 4. Bowl/ Container

Need a festive punch bowl or container for candy? Cut out a pumpkin and line it with a plastic bag or find a clear bowl to fit in it. Here’s a great “how to”.

 5. Luminary

You can either use pumpkins to light your walkway or cut out the center and put a candle holder with candle in it!

6. Embellishing/ Decorating

Many sites use lace, push pins, and stickers to make a unique pumpkin with modern flair.

 7. Door stopper

Keep the doors open this year by placing a small pumpkin in front of the door.

Give Me Decorating Ideas!

Happy Harvest! We hope you and your family can have some fun with these ideas!

Halloween Trick or Treat Bags for Your Kids

How many orange pumpkins have you bought over the years for Halloween? Come on, there’s no shame, we’ve all been there. Oh, and I haven’t forgotten you, pillow sheets! You are creative and so is your child – let’s make a fun treat bag that celebrates that! It will give you an easy project you can enjoy with your kids, and their friends may just call you the “cool” parents, even though we know you already are!

Kids sitting on stoop in Halloween costumes with trick or treat bags.
  1. Sew one! A simple pattern can make for a super cute bag for Halloween. For most projects, all you need is different colored felt and a pattern! You could also reuse the fabric for other seasons depending on what you choose!
  2. Repurpose a shirt/ sew a patch on. Have an old spooky shirt? Cut it with a simple tutorial and you’ve got a great bag! You also can sew or iron patches of a canvas bag for a well-traveled look!
  3. Stencil on a canvas bag! Use paint, spray paint or whatever you like to make your own unique saying on your kiddo’s bag, or go classic and put their name on it!
  4. Line your bag in ribbon. You can line the top by gluing the ribbon along the edges of the bag. You can also cut two little holes in the top of the bag and wrap the ribbon around the bag and to the top and through the holes.
  5. Use bandanas! Get a few different colored bandanas and tie them together or sew them up to make your own unique bag!

Keep Crafting with Your Kids!

Ask your kiddo what theme they’d like to do, or make something to go with their costume. Ask some of their friends to join and make a party out of it! Come up with your own idea if you like!

Family outside in the mountains

10 Spend Free Fall Weekend Ideas

It’s my opinion, but I wear it proudly – Autumn is worth the whole year. In other words, I seriously love fall and wait for it each year with expectation. I enjoy the other seasons as they come, but there’s nothing like the season of fall to me. If I had to peg the one underlying reason I love this time of year it’d have to be that the outdoors turn into the perfect playground, from gorgeous colors, to perfect temperatures, football games, etc. it’s all so inviting!

So since the outdoors are gearing up to create the ideal backdrop for all your family fun, why not enjoy it all without the cost? That’s right, here’s how to have the best fall weekend without breaking the bank!

  • Go hiking: If you need an all-day event, or your looking to spend some energy with your older kids or your pets this option is made for you! You can stay active and enjoy the scenery – talk about the best of both worlds!
  • Host a scary viewing party! Get your favorite spooky show or movie and invite your friends over! Borrow a projector and take it outside or watch on your deck or screened in porch.
  • Use fall foliage for décor: Acorns, pinecones, and leaves make for beautiful décor pieces! No need to go out and buy what you can find in your backyard. If you are nervous they are filled with bugs, dry them out or try one of the many cleaning options on Pinterest!
  • Take lunch to the park: Instead of staying inside, take lunch outside! Heck, it can be your own backyard!
  • Have a candlelit story time: Put the phones and electronics away. Light some candles and turn the lights off. Read the kids a book by candle light. You’ll feel like your back in the day and get to focus on one thing at a time for change! 

Cup of coffee with whip cream and caramel on a table next to fall leaves.
Enjoy a cup with a friend!
  • Make tea or coffee and invite a friend over: Enjoy a low-key chat without having to go out and spend money. A warm cup of hospitality is just as sweet as friendship.
  • Volunteer: Easy, free, and it helps someone else! This is the best one on the list. It’s never too early to teach your kids to put others’ and their needs first. It is the season of gratefulness after all!
  • Clean/Organize: Open the windows and freshen up the house for the season! Organize the kids’ toys, the kitchen, or make a box to donate. Does a room in your home need a good scrub, too? Get some kitchen cleaning inspiration!
  • Break out the board games: Work together or enjoy a little friendly competition playing some games. This is great for those kiddos that need a little break from technology.
  • Go outside and draw what you see: Take another look at your backyard or your front yard. Draw your best rendition! Be sure to include all the color you see!

Get More Frugal Ideas!

Enjoy the best season of all! Remember, fun can be free!

Oakbur Quill Co.

Pre-qualification, Pre-approval, and What You Need to Know

Both pre-qualifications and pre-approvals are indications of what a bank or creditor may be willing to lend but are not loan guarantees. The most important aspect is that they show the seller you are serious about buying while giving you an idea of what you may be able to borrow. Both processes will vary depending on the lender that you select. Before you request a pre-qualification or pre-approval, be sure to ask your lender about how the process will flow, potential associated costs, whether your credit report will be pulled and if documentation will be required. Ask for a list up front so you can know exactly what you’ll need to provide.

Pre-qualification

What: A letter from a lender that says you will likely be able to get a mortgage loan up to a specified amount

Who: A bank, credit union, or financial entity writes a pre-qualification for you. Which means they are looking at your debts and income to decide your credit worthiness.

When: Usually this is the first thing a homebuyer does when looking for a home

Cost: Free (usually)

Where: Online or over the phone (depending on entity)

Why: Potential homebuyers use this to see how much of a home they may be able to afford, or in some cases if they can afford a home. This appeals to sellers because it shows them as a buyer you are serious and can get the loan you need to purchase the home.

What you’ll typically need to provide: Usually potential lenders will look into your debts and income. Lenders usually pull a credit report to evaluate before they write the pre-qualification.

Pre-approval

What: A letter that tells you what a lender is willing to lend you based on financial documentation you provide. Looks at financial history, income, and stability.

Who: A bank, credit union, or financial entity works on a pre-approval for you. Which means they are looking at your bank statements, proof of income, credit, employment, and personal documentation.

When: Usually done right after a green light on a pre-qualification, the next step, some lenders may skip pre-qualification and go straight to pre-approval.

Cost: Varies (but usually a cost is involved for application)

Where: Online or over the phone (depending on entity)

Why: It’s more sound than a pre-qualification because approvals are based on proof of financial status and often evaluated by an underwriter. Can usually provide info about mortgage types and possible interest rates.

What you’ll typically need to provide:

  • W-2 from last 2 years (proof of income)
  • Bank statements (assets)
  • Credit score
  • Pay stubs (proof of employment)
  • Driver’s license
  • Social Security # (personal documentation)

Learn More About the Mortgage Process

Advice from Homeowners to Potential Homebuyers

When we asked some homeowners what they wish they’d known before they purchased a home, we found a theme: researching and understanding the responsibility behind owning a home. Get started with the advice below –

With the internet providing unlimited resources – we have the opportunity to be very informed buyers. However, that also means we might get some bad or inaccurate advice. Therefore, it is wise to be thorough in conducting your research. Ask parents and peers and don’t be shy in calling mortgage companies and asking questions.

Also, it’s good to be prepared for the pitfalls of owning a home. Repairs and updates to a home shouldn’t deter you from owning a home, but you need to have an idea of the cost and time you’ll be spending to keep your home in good shape.

Check out mobile home options!

Manufactured home with steps leading to the front door.

Research:

General –

  • Read blogs, check Pinterest and Google
  • Research the builder of the home you want to purchase. Read reviews. Check into negative reviews if there are any. Compare them to other builders.
  • If safety is a priority to you, check crime rates in the area you would like to live in.
  • If you have kids – look into the school districts and what they offer.

Home Specific –

  • Ask if the title is clear.
  • See if an escrow account for payment of taxes and insurance is available or required through your lender.
  • Check into interest rates and compare them, also see if it’s a fixed rate that will not change during the term of the mortgage.
  • Find out what the estimated annual homeowner’s insurance and property tax payments will be.
  • Look into the history of home and lot in the public land records.

Responsibilities:

Think you’re ready to make a home purchase? Dig into these first-time homebuyer resources as a next step! Have your own homeowner advice? Interested in something specific? Email us your input at facebook@vmf.com!

Person sorting through vegetables and fruit on a table.

How to Compost: Indoors

Short on outdoor space but still want to compost? It turns out, you can! There are two ways that you can compost inside. You can purchase a compost bin for your home, or you can do vermicomposting. Vermicomposting is composting with worms.

With Vermicomposting, the worms will breakdown your materials and do the work for you. It is surprisingly low maintenance to keep them and provides rich fertilizer once ready. The container typically needs cleaned every 3-6 months. There are products that you can buy to start up this process if you don’t mind a few hundred tiny roommates that may not pay their rent but will take out the trash for you.

Trash can in a kitchen island that can be used for compost.

If the idea of keeping creepy-crawlies in your house makes you feel uneasy, you can opt for a bin. You can purchase an indoor compost bins or you can make one of your own. To make your own:

  • You can drill holes in the bottom of a plastic container and put a drip tray underneath (to catch any liquid). Inside the composter you would add a layer of dirt and paper.
  • After you add your layer, add your cut up food scraps. With composting inside, you’ll want to avoid anything that will be stinky.
  • You’ll want to add materials like leaves or newspaper and mix your compost regularly. This process will continue until your compost looks and smells like dirt.

Keep in mind where you will be placing your bins. Some people opt for under the sink and others, right on the counter.

Why Compost?

With whatever route you should choose to take, you can take comfort in knowing you are bettering the world!

Landscaping outside of a home with a wheelbarrow and shovel.

How to Start Composting: Outdoors

We know why composting is important and what we can compost, but how do you start your own outdoor compost station?

To start, decide how much you are composting and if you need a bin. Benefits of composting with a bin is that it will keep it neat in your back yard and help to keep critters away. If you do choose a bin, consider the size of the container for how big of a space you’ll need.

Next is location, location, location. Find an area that is well-drained. If you live in the south, you may want to consider a shady spot so the moisture in the pile doesn’t evaporate too quickly.  In the north, you may want to consider a sunny area since it typically is cooler weather in the spring and fall.

Remember to consider the proximity to your house and garden. Since you will more than likely be making at least one trip (if not more) to it daily you will want it to be close enough to the house, but also close enough so you don’t have to make long trips to your garden.

Once you have decided what and where – it is time to start composting! Start off by having the pile touching the ground.

  • On the first layer, place brown items such as leaves, twigs, cardboard (torn up).
  • Then add green materials, such as food wastes or grass. Each layer should be around 5 inches, give or take.
  • Keep repeating layers until you run out.
  • Once you’ve added the layers, keep the materials wet, but not soaking wet.
  • Turn your pile to dry and mix the materials together for breaking down.

Soil and pots for compost gardening.

As time goes and the materials start to break down, you’ll notice the components of it starting to change. Once the materials look and smell like dark dirt as opposed to the items you originally started with, that is when it is ready to be used for your garden.

Why Compost?

Happy Composting!

Woman in front of a garden, tending to it.

What Are the Benefits of Composting?

Composting is a simple way you can better the environment (and potentially your wallet). If you aren’t quite sure how to start composting or if it really makes that big of a difference, then this is the post for you! Over the following weeks of this series we will be talking about the importance of composting and what you can compost, followed by making your own composter! So, let’s dig in!

Why Compost?

Composting has direct benefits for your backyard but also impacts the environment on a larger scale, too!

When you compost, your soil becomes healthier, which naturally promotes better plant health. Because compost adds organic materials back into the soil, it reduces your need for store bought fertilizer. An additional benefit is that soil will contain more nutrients and become more impervious to diseases. The EPA states that increasing organic matter in your dirt by just 1% can triple the soil’s water capacity!1 It’s pretty amazing what impact you can make for your own back yard.

What about on the larger scale though? Overall, composting will result in cleaner oceans and reduce methane emissions, just to name a couple of benefits2It also prevents 30% of all waste from ending up in a landfill3. Not only will you prevent compostable waste from ending up in the landfill you will also become more mindful of what is being thrown out, thus saving on your budget!

Now that we know why we should compost the question becomes:

What can you compost?

The answer… just about anything! But you will want to be mindful since some items may cause unwanted critters. That problem can be solved though by keeping your bin locked.

Easiest things to compost:

  • Leaves
  • Sticks
  • grass
  • Newspaper (black and white)
  • Saw dust
  • Vegetable food scraps

Items you’ll want to avoid:

  • Meat
  • Bones
  • Dairy
  • Fats
  • Diseased plants

If you are looking to compost something but aren’t sure if you can, check out this composting website! It will tell you whether it can be composted and how to do it safely.

Now that you learned (or maybe already knew) about how composting improves your soil/ plants, reduces waste in your home, and produces less landfill waste – you might be considering how to get started with your own compost! Stay tuned for our next post on the topic where I’ll teach you exactly that!

More Eco Friendly Ideas!

  1. Addison County Solid Waste Management District. 18 August 2021. Five Top Reasons to Compost. https://www.addisoncountyrecycles.org/food-scraps/composting/101/why-compost.
  2. Grow Ensemble. 18 August 2021. 20 April 2021. The 15 Benefits of Composting for the Environment, the Economy, & Our Communities. https://growensemble.com/benefits-of-composting/
  3. Green Philly. 18 August 2021. 21 May 2013. 5 Benefits of Composting for Your Urban Garden. https://www.thegreencities.com/lifestyle/5-benefits-of-composting/