Digs 2022

THE FERNDALE GARDEN CLUB (FGC), founded in 1931, continues to be vibrant and active.

Fall activities included the annual mum sale, a scholarship fundraiser. FGC has offered a scholarship to a graduating Ferndale High School senior since 1998!

In September, the FGC held their annual zinnia bloom contest (Ferndale’s city flower). Everyone votes on the best bloom and the winner takes home a blue ribbon. The contest is open to all and is a fun way for local gardeners to meet in person.

A big highlight of 2021 was the special field trip to the Piet Oudolf Garden on Belle Isle.

And free zinnia seeds were handed out at the annual Seed swap at the Ferndale Library in February.

The FGC maintains the Memorial Mall, a public garden on Oakridge at Livernois “as a place of respite and contemplation” for the community. Garden club volunteers also helped rejuvenate the plants around the Hilton Convalescent home.

MONTHLY MEETINGS INCLUDE PRESENTATIONS on a variety of gardening topics includeing intentional meadows, planting native plants and trees, supporting pollinators (including monarch and black swallowtail butterflies), restoring native bird habitats with healthy nesting materials, rooting houseplant cuttings, hydroponic seed starting, growing aquatic plants, and more. Meeting dates are May 12, June 9, July 14, Sept. 9; 7:00 P.M. at Harding Park Pavillion.

The club also hosts garden workdays at Oakridge and Livernois the first Saturday of each month at 10:00 A.M. Feel free to bring your own tools and help out! April 2 / May 7 / June 4 / July 2 / Aug. 6 / Sept. 3 / Oct. 1 / Nov. 5.

FGC membership includes residents of Ferndale, Oak Park, Detroit, Royal Oak and more. Garden lovers of all skills and abilities are invited from beginners to master gardeners to “folks that just enjoy looking at gardens.”


• @theferndalegardenclub



0 657

By Ryan R Ennis

THE REAL ESTATE COMMUNITY HAS ITS OWN LINGO. Novice buyers and sellers are often left shaking heads and shrugging shoulders in confusion about the jargon. To help things go smoothly, it is beneficial for clients to strengthen their knowledge of realty language.


MOST OF THE PUBLIC is familiar with general real estate terms like “as-is,” “closing,” “due diligence,” and “homeowner’s association.” These commonplace words seem to define themselves. However, the context in which they are used often adds complexity to their meanings:

AS-IS. When a property is listed “as-is,” the term implies that the house or condo is rough around the edges, needing updating. If, for whatever reason, changes happen to the property from the time an offer was written to the closing date, the seller must restore it to how it appeared when it was originally listed on the market. Otherwise, the buyer will no longer be bound to purchase it.

CLOSING. At “closing,” while the buyer and seller review a plethora of documents with their agents and sign them, money is conveyed to a title company so that the exchange of ownership can take place. Many buyers believe that once they receive the keys the “closing” is finished. Actually, in several places across the county, the final point of closing is when the county clerk’s office records the deed.

DUE DILIGENCE. A buyer exercises “due diligence” by enlisting experts to inspect the property and perform tests to ensure it is structurally sound. The test results determine whether the buyer proceeds with the purchase, asks for concessions, or decides to withdraw an offer.

HOMEOWNER’S ASSOCIATION (HOA). A property overseen by a Homeowner’s Association (HOA) comes with fees and regulations. Failure to pay and/or adhere to them can lead to a lien (hold on the property) until the fines and debts are settled.


ANOTHER IMPORTANT SET of real estate vocabulary concern property and listing information. These words not only describe the type of listing agreement drawn up between the seller and agent but also what the buyer should expect in purchasing the property.

LAND LEASE. When a client buys a house, he or she typically owns the land it was built on. In a “land lease” situation, the client may own the home but must rent the land surrounding it.

PROBATE SALE. In cases where homeowners die without designating it to someone, the probate court engages an estate attorney to hire a real estate agent to sell the property. Usually, this type of sale involves more red tape and paperwork than a traditional one. Delays in closing happen frequently.

SHORT SALE. Not to be confused with a “foreclosure” (a lender’s right to repossess a property on which a buyer has stopped paying), a “short sale” allows the owner to sell the home at a loss. The lender agrees to the terms of how much the sale can be “short.” Like a probate sale, the parties involved in selling/buying the property can expect a lengthier process compared to most transactions.

TRUST SALE. In a “trust sale,” a trustee appointed by a private owner sells the property after the owner has passed away. The estate’s beneficiary, not the trustee, receives the sale’s profits.


As they embark on the journey of becoming a new homeowner, clients should know about the difference between “pre-qualification” and “pre-approval.” If clients are unable to put down a sizeable payment on the property, the terms “adjustable-rate mortgage” and “debt-to-income ratio” will most likely pop up in their conversations with their lenders.

PRE-APPROVAL. To obtain a “pre-approval” letter from a lender, buyers must fill out an application that figures out their assets and their ability to repay a loan. The letters will state the amount buyers have been pre-approved for to buy a home. The letter may also include the buyer’s estimated down payment and expected interest rate on a loan.

PRE-QUALIFIED. A buyer’s “pre-qualified” status is based on a quick assessment. The lender may not ask for any official proof of the client’s annual income or assets. For that reason, sellers typically request to see a “pre-approval” letter before agreeing to any offers.

ADJUSTABLE-RATE MORTGAGE. Often called an ARM, the rates on this type of loan may change after a period of time. While an ARM can produce a lower interest rate for a certain time, it is less predictable than a typical loan.

DEBT-TO-INCOME RATIO. This number governs a property’s affordability for a buyer, including what is feasible for a monthly payment.


WHEN YOU’RE READY TO MAKE AN OFFER, the following terms may come into play.

BACKUP OFFER. Clients may find themselves in a position where they want a house that already has an offer on it. In that event, they may submit a “backup offer” should the sale fall through. Legally, only one “backup offer” is allowed per listed property.

BLIND OFFER. In a highly-competitive market, buyers with a hectic schedule may put out an offer on a property without actually touring it. It is their hope to have their offer prevail quickly over others.

HOME SALE CONTINGENCY. Under this condition, the prospective buyers must sell their home to afford the down payment on a new property — most often because they either don’t have enough savings, or would prefer to use their sale proceeds instead of their savings.

SELLER CONCESSIONS. To entice a buyer or ensure a sale goes through, the seller agrees to pay some of the buyer’s closing costs.

The present market smiles on the seller, as demand continues to outpace supply. While a better understanding of real estate language will not tip the scale in the buyer’s favor, it helps for more meaningful discussions with agents and lenders, setting you on the right path when negotiating a sale.

Additional Resources




0 996

By Rudy Serra – Attorney, former District Judge

Probate Explained

THE ENGLISH NOUN “PROBATE” DERIVES DIRECTLY FROM THE LATIN VERBS PROBO AND PROBARE, which means “to try, test, prove, and examine.” The probate process means a will must be proved before the court. The earliest known usage of the English word “probate” was in 1463, defined as “the official proving of a will.

In Michigan, probate is a legal process that may be required after someone dies. The probate process provides for the orderly resolution of a person’s financial affairs after their death. The probate process addresses whether the person died with or without a will, who are the heirs, provides for the notification to creditors, the resolution of creditor claims, the orderly gathering and marshalling of assets, and their distribution. [TheProbatepro.com].

For many people, their home is their biggest asset. Real estate, of course, can be jointly-owned and some often include a provision covering who gets the house when the owner dies. Real estate can only be transferred in writing. It does not work to simply tell another person, “When I die I want you to get my house.” A will, or a document called a “trust,” are written documents and can transfer real estate.

FOR SOME TIME, MERCHANTS TOUTED THE ADVANTAGES OF A “LIVING TRUST” (a revokable intervivos trust) as a way to avoid probate after the death of a loved ones. This probably overstates the advantages of a Living Trust – but they do still have one big advantage when it comes to real estate. When an estate goes through probate, there is an “inventory fee” based on the value of the estate.

There are probate proceedings for people who own little more than a car all the way up to jury trials for estates with significant property and disagreement among heirs. If a person’s largest asset [their home] is transferred into the ownership of a Living Trust, then the “successor Trustee” becomes owner without the house going through the probate court.

The median sales price of homes in Oakland County now exceeds $200,000. A person who bought a home a decade ago may have seen their investment double or triple. One can put their real estate (including more than one piece of real estate) into a Living Trust and remove a significant percentage of their assets from the probate inventory.

Many attorneys and some on-services sell trust forms. It is possible for a person to write a valid living trust or will, without a lawyer. A will, for example, can be hand-written, dated, and signed by a person, and is considered valid even if there are no witnesses.

The numerous potential pitfalls lead most people towards seeking some level of professional guidance. Living Trusts are similar in that regard. The most common error people make with a Living Trust is obtaining and completing the Trust, but failing to draft and record new deeds so the property actually belongs to the Trust. Stating in a Trust that a house belongs to the Trust is not enough. The “chain of title” at the county register of deeds office must include a conveyance from the individual to the trust.

With proper planning, probate goes more smoothly than without.

0 1079

By Lisa Howard

YOUR HOME SAYS A LOT ABOUT YOU, from the way it’s decorated to what kinds of amenities you prefer. But maybe the most important factor about any house is its style — how the house is structured is a fundamental consideration. Whether it’s your first or third home, you want to know what you’re looking at when you start scouring home listings.

Fortunately, buyers in Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge, Berkley, Ferndale and Oak Park have several popular styles to choose from.

“The interesting thing about both Huntington Woods and Pleasant Ridge is that the majority of the homes there are different,” says Tim Murad, a realtor with Keller Williams who lives in Berkley. “‘Eclectic’ is the word I’d use. Both of those communities are higher-end, with custom-designed homes.”

In Berkley and Ferndale, the most prevalent home style is a BUNGALOW, also called a “ story-and-a-half” because the upstairs is only half a floor, due to the roof slope. Bungalows usually have two bedrooms, a bath, a kitchen and a living space on the first floor plus an additional bedroom/ office upstairs. (Most bungalows were built during the post-WWII years and might not have a fully-finished second floor.) These homes are more affordable and are especially popular with first-time buyers. Then again, most bungalows lack a bathroom on the second level, which can be a dealbreaker for some buyers.

IN CONTRAST, A COLONIAL IS CONSIDERED TO BE A FULL TWO-STORY HOME. Found throughout the five cities, colonials traditionally have a kitchen and living space on the first floor and bedrooms and a full bath (or two) upstairs. SPLIT-LEVEL HOMES are multi-story: A bi-level has two stories, a tri-level has three, and a quad-level has four. One side of the house is lowered or raised to half of the floor height and short runs of stairs are placed in the middle of the house to facilitate getting to the other levels. While some buyers won’t consider a bi- or tri-level home due to lack of storage space, quad-levels usually have basements. And some buyers explicitly seek out split-level homes because of their mid-century vibe. Oak Park in particular is a very diverse community, Tim points out, with mid-century modern homes nestled into neighborhoods featuring bungalows, colonials, and ranches.

RANCH homes are single-story homes where a family can live and parents can age in place,” Tim says. “We’re finding that baby boomers are looking to sell their colonial or bungalow and downsize to a ranch, especially a ranch with a basement.” However, ranches do tend to require bigger lots, so you usually have a larger yard to care for. If you’re a gardener, that’s a plus! If you hate mowing and shoveling, that might be unattractive.

One way to get maximum interior space with minimal exterior upkeep is to look for a large-footprint colonial built on a lot formerly occupied by a bungalow — then you’ll have more house and less yard. But most importantly, think about which style would best suit your needs and your budget.

By Lisa Howard

AS SOON AS YOU HEAR THE FIRST BIRD CHIRP IN SPRING, you might think – “Garden!” And, then you might wonder how to go about creating one. While the kamikaze approach of wandering through a plant store and buying whatever strikes your fancy might work, you’re more likely to be successful if you think about some basic considerations first.

• If you’d like to let your inner floral designer bloom and arrange DIY bouquets to your heart’s content, look for showy, hardy flowers and accent plants that are clearly marked as “excellent to use in bouquets/as cut flowers.”

• If you’re a first-time food grower, choose plants that are easy to maintain and that quickly produce, like bush beans, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and herbs. Bear in mind that pole beans (and peas) need structures to climb on and that bigger tomatoes and peppers will take much longer to grow and ripen than will smaller versions.

Zucchini, cucumbers, pumpkins and other squash grow well as long as they don’t get waterlogged — if their broad, cupping leaves spend too much time being wet, they’ll likely wind up attracting opportunistic molds like powdery mildew. Ditto for melons. Corn typically needs to be planted somewhat in quantity in order to be cross-pollinated and produce sizeable ears. Planning is key!

MSU’s Gardening in Michigan website has oodles of information about how to best map out your veggies in an article titled Planning a Smart Vegetable Garden.

• If you’d like to support pollinators, check out MSU’s Michigan Pollinator Initiative. You’ll find thoughtful articles like Pollinator Lawns, Pollinator Gardens and Pollinator-Supportive Trees. They even have a free online course called Pollinator Champions, if you’d like to become an MSU-Certified Pollinator Champion. On a national scale, the National Wildlife Federation offers resources that enable your garden to become a Certified Wildlife Habitat®: www.nwf.org/certify. Planting the kind of native plants that support pollinators also enriches your soil and regenerates the land.

• Aside from thinking about the overall shape and size of your garden, you’ll also need to map out how to get into it if you want to be able to walk through it to harvest food or flowers. Will you need to plan for a pathway? Make sure you’ll be able to easily water and tend to your plants and think about whether you want them to be permanent (perennials) or only last for one season (annuals).

• Stagger your plants! If you want to be able to view everything in your garden, put tall plants in the center/at the back and radiate outwards with progressively shorter plants. Not only will that maximize the aesthetic value of your garden, the shorter plants won’t be shaded into oblivion by their taller neighbors.

Perhaps most importantly, find out what your plants want and give it to them, whether that’s sun or shade, dry or moist soil, vining support or room to spread out or being generally warmer or cooler. If you make it easy for your garden to grow, you’ll be beautifully rewarded.

By Kerry Lark

RE-TREE CONNECTS AND UNITES TREE-LOVERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY, offering them three options for mature trees: relocation, buying, or selling. RE-TREE has already saved many mature trees from becoming a pile of woodchips!

DENNISE VIDOSH IS THE FOUNDER AND CEO OF RETREE, A WOMAN-OWNED SMALL BUSINESS DEDICATED TO SAVING AND RE-PURPOSING OUR MATURE TREES. Her love for trees is literally in her family bloodline, going back to the days she spent as a child working with her father, Donn Vidosh Sr., a legendary pioneer in Michigan’s landscape construction industry.

It was her passion for trees that ultimately led Vidosh to create RE-TREE. Based in Pontiac, RETREE’s imaginative digital marketplace and educational platform makes it easy for commercial and residential property owners to save mature trees from being needlessly destroyed and create value for themselves rather than waste.

Trees are the longest living organisms on earth, with some able to live over 5,000 years. Talk about longevity! However, unlike most living organisms, trees aren’t able to get up and move if the need arises. In many urban areas, some trees will eventually outgrow their allotted space. Unfortunately, most people are unaware that they don’t have to destroy a tree trapped in this predicament. RE-TREE now gives their previously-doomed tree a chance to move, survive and thrive.

Mature trees are irreplaceable, and provide plentiful ecological and sentimental value to people, communities and the earth.

  • A single mature tree can absorb about 50 pounds of carbon dioxide per year and release enough oxygen back into the air to support two human beings.
  • Trees reduce air pollution, prevent contaminated stormwater runoff from reaching our rivers/lakes and save homeowners substantial heating/cooling costs.
  • Trees enhance our well-being by reducing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. This lowers blood pressure and improves our moods and attitudes.
  • The Japanese understand the many health benefits given to them by spending time in their mature forests. They actually bathe their mind and bodies in a form of ecotherapy called “shinrin-yoku,” which literally translates to “forest bath”!
  • Mature trees provide a shady, comfortable home and food source for many life forms.

When you transplant a tree, in most cases it will suffer what is known as “transplant shock.” Unfortunately, the bigger (and older) the tree is, the greater the shock. Therefore, minimizing this stressful shock is of paramount importance. The key element is to preserve as many roots as possible.

RE-TREE has developed a pioneering method to preserve the root mass on a mature tree about to be relocated. Instead of using the traditional mechanical equipment to cut through the soil and remove a tree, RETREE uses an innovative tool called an AirSpade which uses compressed air to carefully expose the all-important root system. This method allows RETREE to preserve and then capture much more of the fragile roots.

Vidosh and RE-TREE care about saving mature trees and preserving their value. She sums it up with a quote from a Senegalese forester; “In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.”

(517) 545-5067

By Ryan R Ennis

YOU HAVE MADE THE DECISION TO SELL YOUR HOME. NATURALLY, THE DESIRE IS TO RECEIVE THE BEST PRICE. Your home has some impressive features. Yet, after scrutinizing the condition of the rooms and décor, you notice they could use a facelift. Some home-staging – readying the property for the market can improve your chances of selling it quickly and getting the offer you want.

As revealed by the National Association of Realtors (NAR referencing a 2017 report), 77 percent of agents state that home-staging helps potential buyers to envision a place for sale as their own. NAR points out that this same strategy helps 39 percent of sellers experience faster home sales and elevates their property values by 6 to 10 percent.

Working in the field for over 30 years, real estate agent Keith Weber of RE/MAX First in Royal Oak agrees that home staging has many benefits — if done the right way. Like most agents in his company, he believes that the proper design can enliven a space. “But, just as important,” he says, “are the background details.” Too often, sellers focus more on the aesthetics of furnishings in the rooms than on the appeal of their doors, walls, and windows.

FRONT DOORS SERVE AS MORE THAN AN ENTRANCE to a home. If they are clean and painted in an attractive color, they welcome and entice prospective buyers to cross the threshold. Once inside, the buyers should be greeted by newly-cleaned or painted walls, preferably in a neutral or timeless color, that complement the furniture and wall art. Adorning the windows should be spotless treatments that offer clear views of the yard and other surroundings from a variety of angles.

When it comes to preparing the sellers’ possessions for staging, Weber recommends following the “every other rule.” After taking an inventory of their belongings, sellers should “put every other thing away.” If they cannot be kept in the attic or basement, check into temporarily renting a storage unit. Too much bric-a-brac in the rooms distracts potential buyers from seeing themselves living in the property.

Another seasoned real estate agent who specializes in home staging is Judy Palmer of RE/MAX Showcase Homes in Birmingham. “For prospective buyers,” she says, “visualization is the key to make sure the house feels like home.” Observing the principle of “Less is better,” she frequently coaches her clients on how to “move around or move out certain furniture” to reduce distractions.

ANOTHER SUGGESTION PALMER OFTEN MAKES is for sellers to put away personal items. “You want people to look at your house, not at your things,” she says. Before the showings of a home begin, she often assists her clients with storing personal items such as family photos hanging on the walls or collections of memorabilia displayed on tables and shelves.

Like Weber, she knows that having the right color scheme matters. “Recently, I showed two bungalows to a client. They both had been updated and were similar size. In the first one, the walls and ceiling had been painted just white, no accent shades. The other used Pottery Barn colors throughout.” Even though the home renovated with Pottery Barn colors cost $10,000 more, the person still bought it.

Irenita Goedert of Red Door Realty in Royal Oak discusses the four “D”s with new clients before they list their house on the market. She advises them to DISCARD anything that is no longer in good condition or hasn’t been utilized in a long time. In this current market, homes can sell within days, so she encourages them to DISPLACE possessions not frequently used “by packing them early.” While homeowners discard and displace unnecessary belongings, she falls in line with Weber and Palmer in teaching her clients how to DE-PERSONALIZE in a way that allows potential buyers to “visualize themselves living there.”

After that, it’s the time for the final D: Giving the place “a DEEP cleaning.”

AS YOU PONDER PUTTING YOUR HOME UP FOR SALE, you may be reluctant to consider staging because the process seems too costly or time-consuming. You may also feel that it carries little weight since the high demand for housing dictates that the market is on your side. However, most knowledgeable agents recognize that any seller can take advantage of staging no matter what the market is like. Staging can be done with little or no expense and empower you to achieve your goal of transitioning to a new home in good financial standing.

By Jenn Goeddeke

AS ALL HOMEOWNERS ARE AWARE, YOUR LIVING SPACE IS CONSTANTLY EVOLVING. Many aspects change over time, including the style and scope of decorations. An element that may be a focal point for a while can become unwanted or irrelevant later on.

Many if not most home areas seem easy, fun, and natural to make beautiful. However, there are those other spaces that somehow add a particular decorating challenge. This could be an entire area, such as a low-lit basement, a laundry room, or a mudroom. Perhaps it is a smaller area: A nook/cranny; alcove; stairway; hallway or foyer. There could be an odd-shaped room with a slanted or low ceiling. Regardless of the situation, a little creativity can go a long way in forming an attractive decor upgrade.

One of the first main aspects of planning new decor will be figuring out the form vs. function combination. For example, should the space be used more for display, or storage? Most likely, awkward spaces will serve both! The next key consideration will be setting a budget. Will this be a do-it-yourself project or will you be recruiting some help? It will be smart to pursue a few web sites, local hardware stores, and home decor retail places. Your design will likely incorporate several types of decorating elements and will be part of a theme that is meaningful for your household.

DARRIN ROBERTS (OF JIM SHAFFER & ASSOCIATES REALTORS) DESCRIBED HOW A CLIENT formed a solution to overall space restrictions. “A current client just bought a 580-square-foot home, and they needed to get creative with space options. This client is an avid reader, so she decided to build a small bookshelf using steel pipes and wooden beams to create an ultra-modern look.”

Roberts continued, “Smaller homes can include a ‘murphy bed’ which folds up against the wall when not in use. Fitness equipment can be selected to roll out of the way, to create a multi-functional/convertible space. Within the smaller bungalows, a popular option to maximize space is to install a ‘dual purpose’ bench for seating and use the underneath area for stowing small kitchen appliances. Additionally, bungalows may have cute bay windows, which can double up as a cozy seating area, next to a small table.”

You might be surprised what you can accomplish in a cumbersome area with a new color scheme, either through paint or wallpaper. Furniture choices can further enhance your project, including console tables; mirrors; cute organizers, and custom cabinetry. Find local companies that can help you plan storage options, such as Easy Glider Storage (see below for contact details). Chris Dempsey (owner) mentioned that “glide-out trays (also called roll-out trays and slide-out shelves) are the most popular storage improvement we provide. They provide more efficient storage while significantly improving accessibility. We specialize in creating solutions for awkward spaces. Under-stair storage; deep, narrow, or irregular spaces are no problem.”

OTHER ENHANCEMENTS MIGHT INCLUDE AN ART DISPLAY, shelves, rugs, lamps, potted plants or vertical gardening, hanging baskets and containers and water elements (such as a mini-waterfall). Saving space may involve swapping the existing swinging or bifold doors with barn-type doors that are flush with the wall.

Depending on your career, it might be worth creating a home office in a space you are currently not using. For example, a bay window could be a perfect locale for placing a small work desk, which may provide an engaging view. A motivational chalkboard hung nearby completes the constructive design.

Gathering notes on the latest decor trends will also be an entertaining and worthwhile endeavor. Many websites list current trends and provide lively suggestions on redesigning your home. Local libraries are also helpful and provide a diverse range of free books to check out. Consult with friends and family for a fresh, individualized perspective. Whichever way you decide to spruce up your home, let it add to the personality and ambiance that is unique to your household.

Dare to be different!

Darrin Roberts,  Jim Shaffer & Associates, 616.403.5710 www.SoldCallJim.com;

Chris Dempsey, Easy Glider Storage Solutions, 248.765.7576 www.easygliderstorage.com

www.bhg.com; www.brick.com; www.hunker.com.

0 556

By Mary Meldrum

MANY OF US ARE ANIMAL LOVERS, INCLUDING MYSELF. With so many potential threats in our homes these days, it’s important to know how to keep our pets safe, and to examine our home from the “noselevel” view.

Let’s start with foods that are dangerous. There are many, but here is a somewhat comprehensive list of the worst and also most common:

  • Chocolate and cocoa
  • Onions and onion powder
  • Granulated garlic, garlic powder
  • Grapes, raisins, and currants
  • Coffee (grounds, coffee beans)
  • Caffeine (black tea, yerba mate, soft drinks)
  • Yeast dough
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Green potatoes and green tomatoes
  • Avocado pits
  • Seeds and pits of cherries, apples, apricots
  • Xylitol – an artificial sweetener found in chewing gum, candy and breath fresheners, and toothpaste

What about air pollution? Recent reports suggest that indoor air may be even more polluted than the air outside.

Many cleaning products are potentially toxic. Your companion’s nose is constantly close to the floor. Normal grooming behavior includes licking paws that may come in contact with those products’ residue. Natural alternatives are readily available, and simple homemade products with inexpensive ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, and borax clean as well as most commercial products. Consider replacing chemically-based air fresheners, detergents, fabric softeners, disinfectants, furniture polish, glass cleaners, insecticides, and scouring powders with natural alternatives.

Plug-in air fresheners and potpourris are quite popular. However, some odors that humans find agreeable are actually annoying to cats. Citrus and pine are both highly irritating and even poisonous if overdone. Constant bombardment with these scents is unfair to your pet; not to mention the potentially toxic chemicals they contain. Choosing more natural cleaning products and air fresheners will go a long way in limiting the toxins your companion has to deal with on a daily basis.

Medications are another source of toxic poison for your pets. Pills dropped on the floor immediately transform into cat toys! Poison control centers get thousands of calls every year about pets that have consumed painkillers, cold medications, antidepressants, dietary supplements, and other items. Be sure to keep medications and vitamins safely stored. Be especially careful with pet vitamins and medications, since they are often flavored and smell enticing.

If your dog or cat accidentally ingests human medication or supplements, contact your veterinarian or poison control center right away. Many human medications, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, are highly toxic to animals, even in small doses.

PLANTS ARE ANOTHER POTENTIAL SOURCE OF POISON. While providing beauty and fresh air to our indoor spaces, pets may consider them toys or snacks. Learn which plants are potentially toxic and keep them out of reach. Some toxic houseplants include:

  • Amaryllis
  • Azalea
  • Caladium (Elephant’s Ears)
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Creeping Charlie
  • Dracaena
  • Dieffenbachia
  • Ivy (Araliaceae)
  • Lily (Easter lilies, daylilies, Tiger lilies and Stargazer lilies)
  • Mistletoe
  • Philodendron
  • Pothos
  • Schefflera
  • Yew tree

A good general rule is that all plants grown from a bulb are toxic. Keep pets away from bulbs and bulb plants.

Insecticides and rodenticides must be used very carefully and judiciously in and around a household with pets. Baits or traps must be located in areas totally inaccessible to your companion. Bug sprays and baits should be used with extreme caution, and the treated area should be completely off-limits to your pet for several days. Read product labels carefully for toxicity information. Cats, and some dogs (especially terriers), love to hunt and eat bugs and rodents, so be sure they cannot come into contact with bugs or mice that have been poisoned.

MOTHBALLS ARE VERY TOXIC TO DOGS AND CATS (AND PEOPLE FOR THAT MATTER). Cats love to jump in open drawers or storage boxes, so use cedar paper or other moth deterrents instead.

Flea control products – even those designed to use on and around animals – can be toxic to our companions over time. There are natural alternatives that work as well or better than conventional chemical pesticide-based products.

Hazards in your garage are also common. Many of us store a variety of chemicals and yard products in the garage. One of the most dangerous of these is anti-freeze. Antifreeze tastes sweet and is attractive to pets, but is highly toxic even in small amounts. If you keep yard and garden products in the garage, be sure they are up high on the shelves, in closed cabinets or in plastic bins with lids. Bins are also good for keeping fumes from fertilizers and other products contained. Paints, paint thinners, glues, and solvents stored in the garage should be kept away from pets as well. Don’t allow pets into areas where you are working. Clean up any spills immediately to ensure a dog or cat does not step in paint or solvent — many solvents will chemically burn the skin and paws, and paints will surely be licked off and ingested.

LOCAL PET RESCUES ARE AN OBVIOUS SOURCE FOR FURTHER INFORMATION about pet safety in the home. Sheri Snover of Berkley operates Second Chances Animal Resources, which works with other shelters and animal rescue organizations to help with the care and adoption of their animals.

One of their most popular projects is their harness exchange. Snover says, “Unfortunately, from time to time, we still see and hear people talk about using a choke, prong or shock collar. Some just need education on more humane methods to train and walk their dogs.” Second Chance provides to veterinary clinics and other organizations free Freedom-No Pull harnesses in exchange for their choke, prong, and/or shock collar, along with the education on their use.


0 675

By Lisa Howard

THREE-QUARTERS OF ALL FLOWERING PLANTS AND OVER ONE-THIRD OF THE WORLD’S FOOD CROPS have one thing in common: they depend on pollinators to reproduce: Bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles, flies, even birds and bats.

Monocropping, pesticide use, shrinking habitats and other modern-day agricultural/urban trends have imperiled pollinators, but the good news is that we can help them receive beautiful flowers and tasty crops in return.

“Don’t clean your garden too early in the spring,” Dominic Scappaticci advises. He’s the president of The Ferndale Garden Club (Facebook.com/theferndalegardenclub) and has long been a friend of bees and butterflies. “It’s best to wait until temperatures average in the 50s. A lot of pollinators like butterflies spend their entire lifecycles here in Michigan, and the next generation is asleep and hiding out in the leaf litter in your garden, in the old stems of plants and underneath the bark scattered around your yard. If you remove all of that debris too early, you’re throwing away the next generation of butterflies.”

And because many native bumblebees nest in the ground, it’s also important to have some patches of bare earth in the garden — then the bees can build their nests in those mulch-free spots and the queen can hibernate over the winter.

Of course, bees love flowers, particularly clover, goldenrod, blue lobelia and yellow giant hyssop, among others. Flowering herbs also attract plenty of buzz, although you might want to keep your basil flowers at a minimum since the leaves acquire a somewhat harsh flavor when you let the plant fully bloom.

Including mostly perennials in your garden and landscaping is another way to help pollinators and the entire food chain since perennials are multiseason plants that offer food and shelter throughout the year. Take the service-berry (a.k.a. shadbush, juneberry and saskatoon berry) that Dominic loves to recommend: Its white flowers bloom in early spring and feed earlywaking pollinators. Then it gets small, bluish berries in June that birds love, and then its leaves turn pretty colors in fall. You can prune it like a small tree or allow it grow like a shrub and – to top it off – you too can eat its berries!

To help butterflies, let wild violets flourish and plant dill, parsley and fennel, all of which Dominic calls “caterpillar magnets.” He points out that while it’s great to plant flowers that adult butterflies will feast upon, their babies — the caterpillars — also need food. “If you don’t have anything in your yard to feed caterpillars, then eventually you won’t see any butterflies,” he says. “You can balance that out by having host plants for caterpillars and also a variety of flowers, shrubs and trees. Native oaks are especially wonderful food sources for many different types of butterfly larvae.”

To amp up your gardening savvy, pick up a copy of Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home, a book Dominic heartily recommends. Or follow the Ferndale Garden Club and join in the fun! Everyone is welcome and encouraged to share their love of gardening.