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Community garden guide

Duncraft has three new bird feeders that let you get a closer look at your avian visitors.

Each of the One-Way Mirror Window Feeders is made of polypropylene, attaches to a window with suction cups and has one-way mirror film (or two-way mirror, depending on what you call it) laminated to the back of the feeder. The mirror allows the birds to see themselves but doesn't let them see you watching from inside the house.

The cardinal feeder has a covered platform tray for offering a variety of foods. Two sizes of songbird feeders are also available, each with two hoppers for holding different types of seeds.

The feeders sell for $24.95 to $44.95 at http://www.duncraft.com.

Community garden guide

Community gardens are a way to improve neighborhoods, promote interaction and, in some cases, encourage people to eat more healthfully. Brooklyn Botanic Garden, a proponent of such efforts, is spreading the word through its new book, “Community Gardening.”

The book is both an idea sparker and a guidebook. It profiles community gardens created for food, beauty or therapy, outlines their benefits, and provides ideas and advice on such aspects as finding a site, building community support and setting up a governance structure. The book includes basic gardening how-tos and addresses challenges specific to urban areas, such as limited space and heavy metals in soil.

“Community Gardening” is priced at $9.95 in softcover. It can be found at some bookstores and garden centers and can be ordered from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's online store for a $1 discount at http://shop.bbg.org (click on “BBG Publications” and then “Gardening Techniques”).

Q&A: Surge protector has limits

Q: I read that electrical items that continue to draw power when they're turned off can be plugged into power strips in groups, so you can turn them all off at once to save energy. I have a 32-inch LCD TV and a cable/DVR box, both plugged into one surge protector. In the past, we had a VCR hit by lightning and ruined, which motivated the purchase of the surge protector. If I switch off the surge protector, wouldn't that leave the TV and DVR susceptible to lightning? And would they require more electricity to reboot when they're plugged back in?

John Drengenberg, an electrical engineer and consumer affairs manager at Underwriters Laboratories, said a surge protector won't do you any good in the event of a lightning strike directly to your house or close by. The surge protector is designed to handle smaller electrical surges, and it might help protect against a surge from a lightning strike some distance away, he said. But a direct strike would melt everything in its path.

On the other hand, a surge protector still provides protection against smaller surges when it's switched off, Drengenberg said. That's because a gap is created between the electrical contacts when the switch is off, and a smaller surge won't jump that gap.

He said the best lightning protection is unplugging electronics from the wall. That's probably too tedious to do routinely, but it's a good idea if you're going away for an extended period.

As for cable boxes and similar electronics that need to reboot when they're plugged in, he doesn't recommend cutting the power to them. Rebooting doesn't require extra power, but the process takes time. And as Drengenberg put it, “That is just going to drive you nuts.”

Akron Beacon Journal

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