Ready to sell?

Step up strong with these six first steps

If you are ready for the adventure of selling your home and starting a new chapter in your life, congratulations!

It’s going to be great. And some work. But still great.

Here are the first six steps you can take to get your home ready for sale.

1. Pack up, pick up:

Pack up pictures, knick-knacks, books, files, decorations, out-of-season clothing, old purses, and sports equipment. That includes extra sets of anything, including dishes, pans, vases, glasses, lamps, supplies and linens. Sell, store, or trash. You might even love this minimalist living.

2. Clean. And clean again.

Nothing sells like a clean house. That means corners, drawers, cabinets, and all fixtures. Detail!

3. Fix up.

Inspect, paint and replace as needed: floors, walls, baseboards, molding, light fixtures. Don’t forget the landscape. Clean and tidy.

At this point, you might wonder about professional staging. You’ve seen it on TV: An earnest home stager backs up a moving truck filled with fine furniture and clever decor and suddenly the house is remade. People ooh and aah at the pretty picture it makes.

This is actually true. According to the Real Estate Staging Association, professionally staged homes sell five to six times faster.

Real Estate agents have heard plenty of skepticism about this from buyers who already are overworked getting their homes ready for sale.

You might think your decor will already make people say ooh and aah but experience says no. Your listing will bring people from outside your social circle who may not see home design your way. Neutral colors and fabrics help sell a home.

4. Plan to open your house to visitors.

Be ready to show your house. That means packing up the kids and pets when it is time. Make that plan early.

5. Get an inspection and spill your secrets.

Get an inspection before you put your home on the market to uncover problems. You might have to fix some things, but it’s better than stalling your home sale. Be prepared with a list of things about the house that the inspection might miss, but you know of. For example, that crack in the cement deck that is covered with the lovely plant platform. List it.

6. Hire a full-service real estate agent.

You have enough to do without trying to suddenly learn another profession. Experience pays in home sale price.

Beware dangers of lawn mower fires

The hum of lawn mowers ring through the country in summertime.

Homeowners rarely consider this task dangerous, but the fact is mowers can and do cause fires.

A lawn mower was responsible for a 2015 wildfire in Oregon that cost millions to fight. The fire raged through more than 26,000 acres, threatening 158 homes.

Every summer, mowers are responsible for devastating house fires, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In 2013, a Virginia homeowner parked a hot mower under a wooden deck. The heat from the mower sparked a fire that rapidly consumed the house.

Fire in lawn mowers is not a commonly acknowledged problem.

Any lawn mower, electric or gas, can catch fire. As with any powerful tool, many things can go wrong. Nearly every mower brand has had a recall due to fire potential. In 2011, John Deere recalled mowers after cooling fans failed, causing a reported 83 fires. Toro recalled its zero-turn mowers in 2013 after an idler pulley rubbing against the fuel tank posed a fire hazard. Craftsman mowers were recalled because of fuel line connections, according to classaction.org.

Fuel hazards are one of the leading causes of fire in gas-powered lawn mowers. Fuel leaking onto the motor can cause a fire. Fuel vapors around a hot muffler also cause fires.

According to Underwriters Laboratory, the exhaust of a mower is 240 degrees and the engine can heat to 200 degrees. A gas cap leak or sloppy fueling can easily spark a fire.

Experts recommend that you fill a mower only when it is cool.

Gas-powered mowers are not the only types responsible for fire. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, this year an electric mower by Hong Kong Sun Rise Trading, was recalled when it was discovered that a short in the circuit board could cause a fire.

Another common cause of fire has nothing to do with the machine itself and everything to do with how it is used. Mowers frequently cause brush fires when tall, dry grass becomes stuck in the mower deck. This grass can get packed into the blazing hot muffler and catch fire. Not only does it burn the machine, but usually sets off a grass or field fire. This could have been the cause of the Oregon wildfire of 2015.

Rock strikes cause fires when the mower’s metal blades, traveling 200 mph at the tip, hit even a tiny rock, causing a spark and igniting dried grass.

Fire experts recommend homeowners wet down dried grass or brush before mowing. An even better idea is to not mow at all in hot, dry, windy weather.

Best practices for using your lawn mower:

* Start mowing near the house and mow outward to create a firebreak.

* Never fuel up a hot mower.

* Replace any leaky gas caps.

* Once you have fueled up, keep the gasoline container at a safe distance.

* Disconnect the spark plug before doing any service on the mower. A spark plug can cause the mower to start unexpectedly.

* Clear rocks from the mowing area.

* Keep the mower clean of fuel.

* Routinely clean out grass from the mower blades with a hose. Never put your hands near the blade unless the spark plug has been disconnected and the unit has completely cooled.

Heat and humidity add up to danger

Emergency rooms see an increase in cases of heat stroke and dehydration in July and August.

The American College of Emergency Physicians gives this advice on how to stay safe in hot weather:

*Check the heat index before going out to work, play or practice and plan accordingly.

*Avoid direct sunlight in the middle of the day. Schedule activities for the early morning or early evening hours.

*Wear loose, light-colored clothes and hats. Dark colors absorb more heat.

*Drink lots of water or sports drinks; about 8 ounces an hour when in the sun in order to avoid dehydration.

*Take frequent breaks in the shade or in air-conditioning to cool off.

Calculate the “apparent temperature” before taking part in activities. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

* At 90 degrees and 50 percent humidity, it feels like 96. At 70 percent humidity, it feels like 106 degrees. Heat exhaustion is likely, so take it easy.

Heat exhaustion can include cramps, heavy sweating, nausea, heart-rate changes and dizziness. Get the victim out of the sun, remove excess clothing and place cool towels on extremities. Fan and give small sips of water.

* At 95 degrees and 50 percent humidity, it feels like 107 degrees. At 70 percent humidity, it feels like 124 degrees. At that temperature and at any higher temperature or humidity, it is extremely dangerous to be outside and heatstroke could occur.

* At 100 degrees, humidity ranging from 35 percent to 55 percent can cause heat exhaustion. At 100 degrees, humidity of 60 percent or higher puts a person into heat stroke territory.

Heatstroke is a medical emergency. Symptoms include confusion, an altered mental state, unconsciousness and hot, dry skin. Call 911. Do not give fluids, which can cause seizures.

The Great American Eclipse

From Oregon to South Carolina, Americans will see the sight that has left mankind trembling and astonished as long as humans have walked the earth.

The Great American Total Eclipse will be one for the record books as totality junkies from across the globe hurry to the best viewing destinations.

On August 21, 2017, for the first time in 99 years, the earth, moon, and stars will line up perfectly in a total eclipse that can be viewed in 14 states. Best viewing is predicted to be in Oregon where sunshine is predicted, especially near Madras. Local time will be 10:21 a.m. PDT and totality will last for about 2 minutes and 7 to 8 seconds, depending on where the viewer stands.

On the East Coast, the eclipse will start a little after 1 p.m. and reach totality just before 3 p.m.

Further inland, viewers in Illinois and Kentucky will experience 40 seconds more totality.

“A solar eclipse can only take place at the phase of new moon, when the moon passes directly between the sun and Earth and its shadow falls upon Earth’s surface,” according to space.com.

The eclipse will be actively pursued by a sub-culture of totality followers who travel to various parts of the world to experience the out-of-this-world phenomena many times during the year. Scientists will also be watching the display and the shadow allows them to see solar flares.

No, you can’t look at the sun and watch the eclipse.

If you have ever held a small magnifying glass over dry grass, you know what happens. The sun’s rays become so focused that the grass catches fire.

That is what will happen to your eyes if you attempt to watch the eclipse. Your retina will burn up. You won’t know it until you can’t see any more.

DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN WITH THE NAKED EYE.

Do not look at the eclipse through binoculars or a telescope or a camera lens. The same thing happens: Your retina burns up.

Do NOT use sunglasses, polaroid filters, smoked glass, exposed color film, x-ray film, or photographic neutral-density filters.

What you can do is make a pinhole projector. There are many instructions online for this.

For ideas on how to view, go to www.exploratorium.edu/eclipse/how-to-view-eclipse.