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Backyard sheds can be useful assets. Sheds can create storage space in the garage, basement or other areas of the house that have become gathering spots for gear typically used outdoors. Sheds are ideal for housing mowers, tools and even pool-care equipment.

But they can be put to other uses as well, such as being key spots to engage in hobbies or even as a child's clubhouse.

Various factors should be considered before building or buying a shed. A storage shed can be a significant investment. Once placed, sheds may remain in their dedicated spots for years to come. That means careful thought should go into the planning process.

1. Choose placement wisely. Spend several days assessing the yard and thinking about the uses for the shed. If you plan to store pool floats and chemicals inside of the shed, it should be located close enough to the pool to be convenient. Look at the lay of the land. If there is a soggy patch of land that can turn swampy under the shed's foundation, that is a poor location choice. If you need access to electricity, placing it far away from the house could necessitate running expensive wiring.

2. Consider the design. Just because a shed is for storage doesn't mean aesthetics should be overlooked. Choose a shed style that complements your home. You may also want to match certain architectural features, like arched doorways or dormers. Design also may relate to practicality. For instance, storing a riding mower inside may necessitate dual doors that open widely.

3. Prepare the site well. A proper foundation for the shed is almost as important as the shed itself. You cannot just drop the shed on the lawn and leave it, as the shed can sink or structural issues may arise if it is placed on a weak base.

4. Blend into the environment. Surround the shed with shrubs or plants so that it blends into the yard and complements the space.

5. Deck out the interior. Use every storage tool at your disposal to maximize floor, wall and even rafter space for storage. Plan where items will be kept and customize the storage options around those locations.

Sheds can be an asset and improve storage capability in the backyard.

The pristine, white backdrop of a snowy winter day can be a wonder to behold. While fresh snow on the ground can make for awe-inspiring landscapes, the absence of greenery amid the starkness of winter poses challenges for animals that do not ride out winter in a state of hibernation.

Several bird species stay in colder climates over the winter. Red-winged crossbills, snow buntings, bohemian waxwings, evening grosbeaks, and cardinals are just some of the birds one may find while gazing outside on a chilly winter's day. Birding in the winter can be a rewarding hobby because, despite the chilly conditions, birds tend to be easy to find in bare trees. Furthermore, the colder temperatures may keep many people inside, meaning neighborhoods, trails and parks can be very quiet, making it easier for those who brave the cold to see birds.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds indicates that winter is a difficult time of year for birds due to the weather and the scarcity of food. Furthermore, birds must consume a lot of food in a short amount of time to have the energy and body warmth to survive each day. Even birds that store food in caches or have developed special scavenging strategies to find as much food as possible can benefit from a little wintertime help. Penn State Extension suggests providing a variety of foods to attract the greatest number of species. Small, black-oil sunflower seeds are preferred by many smaller species of bird and have a high oil content that is nutritionally important for birds. Other sunflower seeds will be appropriate for blue jays and cardinals. Some other popular foods include white proso millet, thistle seed, niger seed, and peanuts.

Consult a wild bird store, which likely sells a birdseed mix that enables you to place a variety of seed into one feeder. In addition to seed, suet, which is made from high-quality animal fat, is crucial for birds in the winter. Families can get crafty by spreading peanut butter onto pine cones and sprinkling seed on top. Hang the pine cones tied to pieces of string from tree branches for homemade feeders.

Birds likely need a little help surviving the winter, when conditions can be bleak. Offering food and observing backyard visitors can be a great way to unwind on winter afternoons.

Come the end of October, people across the country eagerly await the tricks and treats of Halloween. Plenty of fun is to be had on October 31, when hordes of costume-clad children and adults scour neighborhoods on the hunt for the best candy. But prior to Halloween comes the trickery, jokes and gags of Mischief Night.

Mischief Night also may be referred to as Cabbage Night, Goosey Night, Moving Night, Mat Night, or Devil's Night. In parts of the United Kingdom, it's known as Mischievous Night, Miggy Night, Corn Night, or Trick Night.

Mischief Night is October 30 (or November 4 in some areas of the UK) and began as an informal holiday when friends pranked one another. While Halloween is all about the treats, Mischief Night is more about the tricks.

The earliest references to Mischief Night date back to 1790s Britain. But back then the mischief occurred right before May Day. During the Protestant Reformation, much of England set out to distance itself from the treat side of Halloween because it was connected to Catholic saints. Gags and pranks were transferred to the eve of Guy Fawkes Night, a holiday that celebrates the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot to blow up British Parliament. However, in Ireland, Scotland and northern England, Halloween traditions - including good-natured pranks - were maintained. Immigrants from these areas ultimately brought these traditions with them to North America. By the 1930s and 1940s, Mischief Night became popular in the United States.

Ringing false alarms, covering trees in toilet paper, shaving cream fights, switching door mats or outdoor furniture, and ringing doorbells and running are some popular Mischief Night pranks. Much of the behavior consists of harmless fun, but Mischief Night has led to some unsavory acts, including more than 800 fires being lit in Detroit in 1984.

In order to curb destructive behavior, many communities will ban the sale of eggs and shaving cream to minors on Mischief Night. Others implement strict curfews. But that doesn't mean people looking to engage in some good-natured mischief cannot have their fun. Neighbors can host backyard mischief parties in which kids contain their antics to one or two yards.

Mischief Night precedes Halloween and is still popular for many people. Keeping pranks fun and harmless ensures that this tradition can stick around for years to come.

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