TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The 90s may finally be over for the year in terms of temperatures, and fall weather means many residents will prep their homes and yards for the cold months.

Some will treat their lawns to prevent the spread of weeds in the spring. Pre-emergent herbicides are commonly used to prevent seed germination of weed species.

"A lot of people are buying pre-emergence for weeds," said Katie Schmitt of Farmers Co-op Tahlequah. "They are also starting fall gardens and planting cool weather plants. Rye grass is a popular seed right now. Most people aren't spraying, but if they are, they are doing it for crab grass."

Schmitt said seed fertilizers and weed killers are popular, but fungicides are in demand after recent heavy rains. Residents are also waging year-end fights against fleas and ticks, which Schmitt said "are hopefully about to go away."

"People will want to get hold of their stock tank and pet food bowl de-icers," Schmitt said. "You don't want your pets' water to freeze."

It is also time to winterize pools, be they in-ground or above. Lesa Cordle of Hearth and Pool said there are certain methods to "close and cover" pools, depending on their configurations.

"You definitely want to close your pools down," Cordle said. "There is a process of balancing the water [pH], having it covered and blowing out the lines. It is important to close the pool and get the lines cleaned out, because you don't want anything to freeze."

Cordle said many customers get their hot tubs ready for winter, picking up chemicals and filters.

Imperative for home safety is a clean chimney or flue. Chimney soot is a fire hazard, and pre-winter sweeps are needed.

"You should clean the chimney every year," Cordle said. "A lot of people do it themselves, but it is still a good idea to get a professional to give a look every couple of years. Make sure they are certified. All our guys certify through the Chimney Safety Institute of America and know what they are doing. If you hire someone to sweep your chimney, make sure they are certified, and make sure they have liability and workers' comp. I want to know the guy walking around on my roof has good workers' comp."

Cordle stressed annual cleaning all flue systems, whether fireplace, insert or woodburning stove.

"One thing people do this time of year is, if they have a wood stove, they touch up the paint and make sure all the door and window gaskets are in good shape," she said.

MIke Skinner, co-owner of Tahlequah Lumber, said chimney safety is a concern of customers as fall approaches, as is plumbing.

"It is a good time to get some pipe insulation and make sure everything under the house is insulated so the pipes don't burst," Skinner said. Laughing, he added that some people use insulation to "quiet" their deer stands.

At Tahlequah Lumber, heaters are popular, as are grills and other items to facilitate tailgate season.

"People are also checking weather stripping, making sure it is good on doors and windows," Skinner said. "Sometimes a piece of plastic film over windows can help. It is also time to stick the head in the attic and check the insulation. We are busy this time of year with people buying attic insulation to make their homes more energy-efficient. We also want people to know that we have employees who have been here for 20 and 30 years. They are knowledgeable staff who can guide customers, whatever their endeavor."

Winter is also a time when some pests try to horn in on the heat of a home. Don Staiger of Farmers Co-op said customers were stocking up on countermeasures against rats and mice, and he warned of a danger some might not expect.

"The check engine light came on in my car not long ago," Staiger said. "Turned out it was rats or field mice gnawing on the wires."

Rodent-ruined automobile wires are common enough that Forbes magazine ran a story on the escalating problem. Rabbits reportedly rendered numerous vehicles immobile while parked at Denver International Airport.

Another story in Wheels.ca told of a couple that, once their vehicle wouldn't start and their instrument panel lit up, their mechanic found only one wire still connected under the hood and that they "had been driving around on faith." After repairs, and testing to ensure all the wires were properly reconnected, the bill was $1,700.

Blame has been leveled at the move by some auto makers toward biodegradable wire insulation using soy, peanut oil, wood and rice husks. Many companies say rodent damage to wiring has little to do with the insulation composition.

Nonetheless, there is nothing imprudent about city dwellers taking those same measures farmers have employed for decades to keep furry critters from damaging their engines. Cars regularly driven are at less risk, but a vehicle stored for winter will benefit from a drive-in bag or container.

It is a challenge, but if all holes into a garage can be identified, they can be blocked with steel metal or mesh to prevent rodent entry. Peppermint oil, mothballs, dryer sheets, Pine-Sol, and red pepper are yucky to rodents, as is litter that the household kitty has rendered ineffective for its original purpose.

If all else fails, bait traps under the car. And use peanut butter.

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