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Garden

    The big green bugs that make a deafening sound are back. Cicadas have popped out of the ground early this year and are starting to show up in Ohio and other parts of the Midwest, as well as the South and East Coast. First you see their skin. Then you hear their call.  >> Swarms of cicadas expected soon in Southeast It's the unmistakable sound, and evidence the cicadas are back.  'I think they're really gross,' said Ashley Gilbert of Kettering, Ohio. 'They're a little scary, kind of prehistoric looking so they're a little startling,' said Melissa Todd of Riverside, Ohio.  The fragile brown casings could be from Brood X – some of these 17-year cicadas reportedly are arriving four years early – or the annual dog-days-of summer cicadas that have arrived several weeks ahead of time.  >> Read more trending news According to the Gardener's Network, Brood X cicadas span the following states: Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, New York, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia. Whichever kind they are, cicadas don't bite and don't cause much harm to trees. Their loud sounds and startling movements is all most will have to deal with. – The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.
  • Spanish photographer David de los Santos Gil has once again captured the beauty of nature on film. Last year, Gil compiled 5,000 images of blooming flowers for the first timelapse video in a series that received recognition from National Geographic, among others. >> Read more trending stories Now the photographer has released 'Flowers Opening Timelapse II,' for which he took nearly 40,000 images. (He shot 50,000 photos in 1 to 10 minute intervals for the first video, he says on his blog.) The second video again features a score composed by Roger Subirana, Gil says on his blog. Some of the flowers seen in the video are hibiscus, cactus, iris and almond blossom, though there are many more as well.
  • Q – I have just noticed in our family room that there are a row of dots on three walls all about 4-5 foot high and almost in a perfect line.  I tried to paint over one but it just came back. What is going on here? Tricia in Atlanta A – Although you may think your house is haunted, I have thought long and hard about this and I think I have your culprit. My best guess is that your ceiling fan – who doesn’t have a ceiling fan in their family room that runs all day these days – is leaking oil. Maybe not a lot of oil, but enough to track its way down the back of the fan blade and hurl itself across the room onto the wall.  It probably can’t reach the fourth wall because it is too far away. Check the back of the blades and see.  Cleaning the blades will be easier than cleaning and painting the wall. You will have to try to clean the dots before repainting.  You can try wiping with a little soap and water and let dry. If that doesn’t work you can try cleaning with TSP. If that doesn’t work you can get some drywall mud and feather out a layer over the spot – (that would be where I start actually) – and sand it.  Then prime it with Kilz then paint.  After that it gets serious.  Worst case scenario is either to hang pictures over every spot or gouge out each spot and re-mud it. It only gets worse from there. This is one of those projects that will test your “That’s good enough” level.  Good luck.
  • Sprinkle grits around the mound. The ants will eat them, the grit will expand, and the ant will die. No word on whether cheese grits are more effective… Scoop into a fire ant mound and place that on another fire ant mound. The thinking is that the fire ants will wage war on each other and exterminate themselves.  Hot water. Pour hot water on mound. This either drowns or scalds them, but either one is good by me. Pour gasoline on the mound. For me this makes more sense than hot water, especially if you ignite it after you pour. Warning, duh, this is not too safe, not to mention bad for your yard. Lawn mower. My favorite. Ok, be honest here – who hasn’t taken pride in mowing a fire ant bed? Truth be told you will not be rid of the fire ant bed until the queen is killed or over-thrown by a prince with really big ears who has been waiting for a long time for the very old  Queen to step aside so he can at least be the King for a little time while he can still enjoy it. You get the gist.
  • 5 Things that are commonly wrong when your a/c unit goes on the fritz..      A note – these are 5 offenders when you’re a/c quits working.  It is not an end-all beat-all list, but these are likely culprits.  Listen for your hvac company to use these words…- 1. “It’s turned off.”  Hopefully you won’t actually have a service tech out to your house to tell you this. Your hvac system has an on/off switch by the unit.  It looks like a light switch.  In a weak moment you might mindlessly walk out and flip it off thinking it is a light.  Simply flip it back on and the system will re-start. 2. “It’s your thermostat”.  Hopefully you won’t actually have a service tech out to your house to tell you this either. Often a programmable thermostat, which runs on batteries, will shut down your system when the batteries for the thermostat are dead.  Been there.  Seen that.  More than once. Pop the thermostat off the wall and replace batteries.  Probably AA sized.  Probably needs 3.  You can probably only find two.  Tough break.  Pop the thermostat back on and all should be right with the world 3. “It’s a capacitor”.  Not a flux-capacitor, but your outside unit has a capacitor in it the size of a Coke can’ish.  When it goes, you will still feel air out your vents, although it will be warm air, but your outside unit will not be running (and thus the motor will be getting warm).  I repeat, your outside unit will NOT be running at all. This is actually a pretty simple DIY fix if you are handy and can read a wiring diagram.  Drawback – you would have to order the capacitor from a parts company – they aren’t carried in big box stores.  So figure a three-day wait at least for parts. Call a pro.  With this problem from the time they get to your house to the time you have cool air blowing again will be about 7 minutes.  It’s worth it. 4. “It’s your compressor”.  Often proceeded by a high squealing sound.  When your compressor goes bad you are through getting cool air until a pro can install a new one. Once again you may still be feeling air blowing from your vents, but it will not be cool air.   If the compressor is malfunctioning, it won’t be able to turn the refrigerant gas into a liquid – a vital step towards allowing it to cool the air. (Or rather if you will, removing the hot air from your inside air.) Maybe, possible DIY, but this is a much bigger job than the capacitor is and again you have to wait for parts.  (Sensing a theme here?).  This is why there are HVAC companies.   If you don’t have a good one, call me and I will hook you up with one. 5. “You are low on refrigerant.”  Ahhh, the dreaded refrigerant leak.  This is often evidenced by the ice on your indoor unit.   Yes, it does sound backwards, but not enough refrigerant causes ice and no cool air. This can be an absolute pain in the neck as refrigerant leaks can be difficult ($$) to find and to fix.   You cannot do this yourself as you need to be certified to buy it and trap the old refrigerant so it does not get released into the atmosphere. Do NOT use the refrigerant for a car in your home system.  Yes – I am looking at you Mr. Steve my next door neighbor.
  • Q – 4 years ago I had the best gutter covers installed on my gutters to keep the gunk out.  Now my gutters are over-flowing. Do I need new gutters? -Mary Ellen – Decatur A – I can’t speak to whether you do or don’t need new gutters without first seeing your current gutters, but I can tell you this: Gutters, even those with gutter covers, still need to be cleaned. Whoops – watch your language there...  I am sorry but it is true. Over time (could be 5-6 months, could be a couple of years) gutters will accumulate gunk, shingle debris, dust and dirt that blow around, the odd leaf and pine needle, they will all find their way into your gutter where they will decay and create a layer of grossness which will eventually block your gutter from doing its job correctly. Can’t help it that is the way it works.  I just spent a morning cleaning out a part of one of my gutters and it was disgusting. Now here is the hard part – who do you get to do the work… Well – you can do it if you don’t mind going up and down a ladder about 50 times, trying to manipulate your gutter covers so you can reach into the gutter and scrape yuck out with your free hand. If you have more than a one story house this is probably not your best solution but I will tell you this – it is difficult to find a good gutter cleaner.  Seriously. You need to find a legitimate guy (or company) that has up to date insurance and workman’s comp.  Often times you can find a roofer to do this, but this is more of a long shot than a sure shot. Beware hiring the guys who advertise on a 7x11 cardboard cut-out nailed to a telephone pole (see previous paragraph). I would start with a real handyman company or a good roofer and see if they do that work or can give you a referral.