Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Plan Your August Sanctuary Now

Are you worried about Global Warming?

Next year in 2007, when you enter the Dog Days of summer, you need not go mad in the heat! Although legend has it that "Dog Days" comes from the weeks in July and August that traditionally drove dogs heat-mad, it is actually taken from Sirius, the Dog Star.

While the ancient Greeks and Romans believed that Sirius-rising brought the most hellish days of the year, you can find cool weather at home in August. Along with fast-growing shade trees, and water-conserving grasses, ground covers, and cool stone, there are several magical accessories that can cool your home landscape so that the Dog Days will include your best days and nights.

One way to keep a cool head is to use a retractable awning attached to an outside wall of your home to create a shaded area. Such awnings come in a wide range of sizes and colors, and create a foldaway extra room without the costs of a house addition. They can also be placed above windows and doors, or nearer the ground for a shaded area for your pet. Since they are water resistant, awnings can catch rain runoff in a decorative rain barrel, and keep a summer cloudburst off the patio, deck, or Jacuzzi. They are energy efficient and reduce interior heat in homes during sunlight hours by 77% according to the American Society of Heating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE, http://www.ashrae.org). They will also keep the sun out of your windows and off your patio furniture to stop sun damage interior and exterior decors.

Complementing awnings, the water mister is a true miracle in the desert. Water misters can be added to the top perimeter of an awning and are more effective than fans alone for covered outdoor patios and dining areas. A misting system can increase relaxation and enjoyment in the hottest of outdoor conditions through quick evaporation engineering. Specifically created mist nozzles place water under high pressure to result in water droplet mists that bring air temperature down by 20+ degrees F or more. If you add an outdoor fan or two, the temperature can be further reduced. You can find mister ideas on the Internet, in items ranging from portable misters, misting fans, and misting birdbaths; to umbrella and patio misters; all the way up to misting tents. There is even a mister to ward off mosquitoes. Misters range in price from under $50 to several thousand dollars, depending upon your needs.

To add to cooler temperatures, hang attractive wind chimes to add pleasing sounds. At affordable prices, chimes can be attached to the top of the retractable awning, or hung from decorative wrought iron garden poles or garden hooks. Wind chimes are created in metals, woods, shells, and ceramics to bring an air of music and art to your yard and Capiz shells can be very colorful. Alternatively, you might choose cool silver or copper chimes, or the wood of a Pacific Island. At night, you can add the soft light of candles set on cool surfaces or floating in the rain barrel with a water lily to create a relaxing getaway in a cooler temperature with the music of chimes.

Light can also be added with patio and landscape lights. Besides electric Asian lanterns, Mexican peppers, and butterflies, there is a range of solar-powered lighting that is attractive and energy efficient. Some of these lights are sculptured flowers that glow at night, while others are carriage lights on tall hooks. Some are Asian teahouses that sit serenely and glow along a cool stone path through your yard. Some even come embedded in the underside of a patio umbrella to light up at dusk. Ranging in price from about $8 for a ground light at Wal-Mart to $150 for a solar-lit patio umbrella on the Internet, there is a price for everyone. If you want to add even more light to your nighttime patio, you can use a chimenea in one of many designs. Larger models provide cooking space, while you can choose a smaller version to burn pinon or other fragrant wood to compliment the aromas of your flowers and outdoor dinners.

Use these ideas to have the best "Dog Days" of your life this summer and include your family, friends, and pets in frequent celebrations of your home and landscape. Stay cool in 2007!

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