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I know it’s a little early to be thinking about lawn care, but spring will be here before we know it, and some of us will be in the market for new lawnmowers.

One terrific — and easy — way to reduce your environmental impact and save a lot of money is to use an old-fashioned reel mower instead of a gas-powered mower.

Contrary to popular belief, a properly maintained reel mower is a delight to use. Lightweight, quiet, and efficient, they use no gas, require no effort to start, can be used without remorse on ozone alert days, and are much safer than gas-powered mowers, as the blades work in only one direction, making it virtually impossible to cut yourself while mowing.

A decent reel mower can be had for less than $100 at most hardware stores. (If the big boxes don’t carry them, try your local mom-and-pop.) Try to find one with a U-shaped handle, rather than a T or Y-shaped handle, as they tend to hold up better.

The biggest complaint I hear about reel mowers is that they are hard to push. This is true of dull mowers, but it’s a non-issue if you keep the blades sharp. If the mower starts getting a little balky, simply use a kit (available online for $25 to $30) to sharpen the blades.

You’ll also want to be aware that reel mowers are not good at handling very tall grass, so don’t neglect the lawn for three weeks and then expect your reel mower to do the work of a sling blade.

If you want to save clippings to use in your compost pile, many models come with grass catchers, which can also be purchased separately for around $30 apiece.

It’s been our experience that you can get about three seasons out of a reel mower before the gears start to wear out, although this obviously will depend on the size of your yard and how often you mow it.

I’m not sure I’d want to use a reel mower on a large property, but for a typical suburban backyard, I consider it an ideal tool.

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Here is a quick, free way to eliminate tiny drafts around the house. I learned it from my mom when I was about 4, and I’ve never forgotten it:

1. Save the polystyrene trays that are used to package meat, mushrooms, and other foods. (Polystyrene egg carton lids will work for this purpose.)
2. Take the plastic cover off an electrical outlet.
3. Use the cover as a pattern to make a polystyrene cutout the same shape and size as the cover.
4. Put the cover back on the outlet, wedging the polystyrene cutout between the cover and the wall.

Do this on all your outlets — especially those on exterior walls — to help reduce heat loss.

This seems insignificant, but it really helps, it doesn’t cost anything, and it’s an easy way to recycle polystyrene that otherwise would end up in a landfill.

If you have a lot of styrofoam trays, you could even make some of these for your friends.

I took temperature readings inside and outside our passive-solar henhouse on New Year’s Day. At 2:30 in the afternoon, the outdoor air temperature was in the high 40s, the temperature in the sunshine on the ground in front of the henhouse was 61, and the temperature inside the henhouse was 72.

Getting the hens out of the chicken tractor and into the new structure was something of a trick. We were using pavers to hold the door shut, and our barred Rock, Solitaire, proved much stronger and much more willing to squeeze through a small space than we’d expected. We’d put Solitaire into the henhouse, carefully secure the door, and as soon as we turned our backs, she’d come sauntering back out the side. It was pretty funny. We finally gave up on the pavers and used a couple of big logs from the woodpile to hold the door shut, which worked a lot better.

Once the girls were back together, they calmed down and quit trying to sneak out. The quarters were a little tight, and I don’t think they liked being walled in like that — after all, they’re used to being outdoors — but their temporary home did a good job of protecting them from the elements when temperatures dropped into the teens for a couple of nights, and I slept better knowing my girls were safe and warm, even if they weren’t very happy with me.

Emily