Gentle Reminders: October

Martha Stewart Living, October 2004

In Season
Brussels Sprouts
These nutritious cruciferous vegetables were first cultivated in Belgium. They grow on stalks and look like tiny heads of cabbage, their botanical cousin. Buy small, bright-green sprouts; keep them refrigerated, and use within three days. Cook sprouts quickly for best flavor: Cut an X in the stem end of each, and then steam, saute, or boil.

Winter Squash
These hard, thick-skinned gourds are best in fall and early winter. Most varieties, including acorn, butternut, hubbard, and spaghetti, have a mildly sweet flesh that benefits from slow-roasting, baking, or steaming. Choose squash that is firm and heavy for its size; store for up to two months in a cool, dry spot.

Get in the Habit
Do a safety check every six months. When you turn the clocks back at the end of daylight-saving time, test household alarms, and schedule a fire drill for your family. Also be sure exterior lights are working and no bulbs are burned out. This is important for security -- and for greeting your guests on Halloween night.

Have You Done It Lately?
Go apple picking. A crisp, early-fall afternoon is ideal for visiting a pick-your-own orchard. Take along a picnic basket, and spend the day among the trees, gathering fruit. Then bring your harvest home, and make pies, applesauce, and more.

Indoors
Change bedding, removing and storing light, warm-weather coverlets in favor of flannel sheets, down comforters, and other winter linens.

Invest in a humidifier. If your house tends to get dry in the colder months, these machines can put back some much-needed moisture. Humidity makes a house more comfortable and can help make the air feel warmer, even when the thermostat is set to lower temperatures.

Change the direction of your ceiling fans. While the standard counterclockwise direction provides a pleasant breeze during warm months, you should run the fan clockwise in cold weather. This creates an upward draft, redistributing the warm air hovering near the ceiling throughout the room, thus heating your home more efficiently. Most fans have a switch on the base to adjust the rotation

Fine-tune plans for Halloween costumes and decorations; carve pumpkins just before the holiday. Don't forget to toast the seeds when you're done. They're delicious seasoned with salt, but even better when spiced up a little. Try our sweet-and-spicy pumpkin-seed recipe.

Outdoors
Plant garlic about six weeks before hard frost. Choose a spot in full sun, with well-drained soil that's rich in organic matter. Check with a local nursery for a garlic variety that will thrive in your area, and for specific planting instructions.

As leaves fall, rake regularly to keep the lawn healthy; then shred the leaves and add them to your compost pile. Also have gutters cleaned of leaves and other debris, which can lead to clogs and water damage under the eaves and in your walls.

Start planting spring-flowering bulbs.

After the last of the annuals have faded, empty window boxes of old soil, and clean them thoroughly. Then create autumnal displays, filling the boxes with dried gourds, Indian corn, colorful fallen leaves, and branches.

Stocking Up on Firewood
If you order firewood for the winter months, store it properly to keep it dry: Begin stacking the wood at least 3 inches off the ground, on a base of pressure-treated four-by-fours or cinder blocks. Make a tower of crisscrossed logs at each end, then pile logs between them, so air can circulate. Hang a tarp above the wood (not directly on the logs) to block rain and snow; this will ensure that the wood will always be ready to burn.

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