Story last updated at 2:42 p.m. Thursday, September 12, 2002

Annual holiday tips on winterizing come early
Nick C. Varney
For many years now, I have written an annual column devoted to giving homeowners important tips for winterizing their domiciles. In response to numerous complaints, I have decided to publish these ideas in September rather than as my normal Christmas Holiday special.

Hopefully, this will quell the angst of distaff readers who claim that I purposely delay such guidance until everything is covered with snow, giving their men an excuse to watch football instead of hanging off the side of the roof while trying to install ice guards for the gutters.

Ladies, please feel free to tape these suggestions to your man's tackle box, the hunting truck's dashboard or four-wheeler seat.

* Make sure your wood stove and/or furnace is in good working order. If you cannot get a wire brush down the stove's smoke stack without the use of compact nuclear weapons, replacing the pipe might be in order.

Furnace filters resembling overheated asphalt slabs should be removed and reinstalled as part of your driveway restoration. If you have a real fancy place that actually has thermostats, make sure they haven't become just wall ornaments and that any pilot lights will function without the assistance of a blowtorch.

Speaking of open flames, check the pipes bringing fuel to your furnace. Leaking or loose feeds could lead to one hell of a midwinter barbecue and annoy your duplex neighbor.

* Have your heating ducts cleaned. It's recommended that the ducts be vacuumed every five years. This procedure is also recommended for certain medical problems suffered by males over 55.

* Trim trees and remove dead branches. Ice, snow and wind could cause weak trees or branches to break, damaging your home or car and turning your roaming cat into something resembling a lawn pizza.

* Remember all the leaves that fall off your trees during autumn? Well, a lot of them may end up in your gutters. Cleaning them out should prevent water from building up and freezing in the drains.

Caution: Wild Willie used to handle this problem by setting them on fire. This is why he now resides in a Visqueen tent.

* Check the caulking and weather stripping around doors and windows to make sure there's no cracking or peeling. If the existing stuff resembles an acute dandruff attack, splurge and spend a few bucks to replace it. It'll save you a lot of hard feelings from the spouse when you end up wadding her new, intricately sewn quilt around the door to keep the howling winds out.

Why pay a higher heating bill if you don't have to? Besides, wives and significant others really detest jogging in place to keep warm while watching the evening news.

* Make sure steps and handrails are in good shape. Broken stairs and banisters can become dangerous when covered with snow and ice. Make repairs now to prevent the delivery dudes and dudettes from taking radical headers off your deck while delivering emergency replacement parts for the new turbo 10,000 cc snowmachine that you put through the side of the cabin during its initial test run.

Thus, you will ensure that the only person seriously injured will be you when your better half finds out that you bought the beast rather than replacing her 20 year old Yugo.

* Get to know your plumbing. Aw, cut the snickers, I'm talking about your house. Learn how to shut the water off and know where your pipes are located. If your conduits do freeze, time is of the essence. The quicker you can shut off the water and deal with the problem, the better chance you have to prevent pipes from bursting, resulting in future family meals being held in a canoe.

* Make sure that you gather up all of your surviving garden tools that haven't been chewed into sawdust by your Tasmanian Devil dog, Pookie. Or, were lost to the Pushki patch that counter-attacked when you tried to destroy it by turning your entire bod into a blister the size of an industrial blimp.

Clean and store them carefully in a covered area so that they have a chance to be more than rust-on-stick when spring rolls around.

There will be more suggestions forthcoming concerning the proper winterization of guy toys in months to come, such as where to park your Harley in the living room. But, for now, I think I've stirred up enough discord for the hunting and fall fishing season.

As for you ladies who sent me that nice check to write this column? That puppy better not bounce, 'cause I'll be on the run until the snow flies, and my wife's going to need the bucks to get the winter preps done.

Hmmm, I should have thought of this scam sooner.

Nick Varney stumbles into this space every three weeks or so, depending on whether or not he's done his household chores.