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Drip irrigation is the most efficient way to water plants. You can buy soaker hoses that work pretty well and are inexpensive. These are even made of recycled tires, so they also are a very green product. Use them to make some custom pieces for your yard. Cut the hoses to fit where you need them. Stretch or wind them through your flower beds, doubling them if you need to. You can coil them around your trees, loosely, to water the roots. Stretch them down the side of your house to keep the concrete foundation from shifting. Then, install the proper male or female ends or quick-connectors so hooking them up to your water supply will be easy. You can install hose end caps to keep the water from draining out.

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Q: I’m afraid we may have to replace our water heater. It’s only about five years old, but just isn’t heating like it used to. Is there a way to check the electrical elements to see if they are working properly? – M.P.

A: Turn the current off to the water heater and use a continuity tester to test the element. If you cannot do this, remove the element and take it to an appliance repair shop and have them test it.

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Q: I have replaced a part of our ceiling that was damaged from a leaky roof. I put the drywall up but can’t figure out how to get that “popcorn” look that the rest of the ceiling still has. How do you do that? – J.R.

A: The easiest way is to buy it premixed in a can or a bucket. The can is easy to spray onto the ceiling and the larger amount in the can spreads on. It’s a little messy, so spread dropcloths around where you are working. It’s easy to use, and you should get good results.

Tips from readers

Dear Carrells: For years I had to keep the microwave in my kitchen on a side table because the cord wasn’t long enough to reach the outlet on the kitchen counter. I finally replaced the original cord with a longer cord. It took about 20 minutes to do, and now my microwave is sitting where it belongs on the kitchen counter under the cabinet. – H.N.

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Dear Al: We love our new deck. We put it in last year and have no real yard anymore, just the deck and pool. It’s made life so much easier. But my wife likes to garden, so I bought self-watering window boxes and set them along the edge of the deck. She planted them with vegetables and flowers so she still can have a small garden. I just hope we can get some good tomatoes. I do miss those! – J.A.

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Dear Kelly: You’ll love this. My dining room is plain, but I got a gift card from a linen place and bought a new table runner and a whole set of matching napkins. I used some of the napkins to cover the chair seats. The rest are on the table as actual napkins. So now I have matching napkins, table runner and chair seats. The room looks so great now, and it didn’t take much time at all. I will send you a picture when I get a chance. – T.S.

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Dear Al and Kelly: I have found that I can remove the aerators from my faucets once a year and clean them. It’s easy to do, and your faucets will run like new again. If you have not tried this, you’ll be amazed at the difference. Try it the next time you get a chance, and you’ll be sold, just like I was the first time I did it. – H.G.

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Dear Al: I found a neat way to mix concrete for smaller projects. Put the concrete mix into a bucket that has a tight-fitting lid. Add the water and put the lid on it. Now you can roll the bucket around, turn it over and over and shake it. It takes several minutes to mix it thoroughly, but it really will get the job done. The best part is that you won’t have any mixing tools to clean or anything else either. You can rinse the bucket out, but that’s about all you will have to clean. You can do a final stir with your trowel, but it should be pretty ready to use when you take the top off. – S.D.

Shoptalk

Sylvania MusicLites are a neat product that we ran across. They look like an LED light bulb and actually include a 10-watt LED light, but they also are a wireless audio receiver with a built-in 2.75-inch speaker. Use them to provide sound from many of your portable audio devices. Get the specifics at www.sylvania.com. These MusicLites are available at several outlets, including Amazon.com.

A Super hint

You can get keys cut from a wide variety of blanks these days, in tons of assorted colors, including stripes. So go have copies made in different colors so you can quickly grab the right key when you are in a hurry.