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Xtend+Climb telescoping ladders work like extension ladders but collapse small enough to fit into a car trunk.

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Fiber arts take on a new level of creativity when you dream up your own fabric designs. Artist Cheryl Rezendes shows how in her book, “Fabric Surface Design.”

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The Toolbox: Stagnant rain-barrel water, fabric design book, telescoping ladder

  • September 17, 2013 - 3:20 PM

Compact telescoping ladder

Xtend+Climb telescoping ladders work like extension ladders but collapse small enough to fit into a car trunk.

The aluminum ladders come in home and pro series that range in height from 8 to 15 feet. The ladders can be adjusted to any height at 1-foot intervals.

A handle is integrated into the design to make the collapsed ladder easy to carry, and thumb releases are positioned to prevent pinching while the ladder is being collapsed.

The ladders range from 16 to 36 pounds. Prices range from $149.99 to $309.99 on http://xtendandclimb.com. The ladders are also available on Amazon.com and from many big-box retailers.

Fabric design book

Fiber arts take on a new level of creativity when you dream up your own fabric designs.

Artist Cheryl Rezendes shows how in her book, “Fabric Surface Design” (Storey Publishing, $29.95).

Rezendes teaches a number of decorative techniques for fabric — painting, stamping, printing, marbling and more. She offers guidance on fabric selection and on setting up a work area, along with instructions and photos of the methods she covers.

Profiles of fiber artists are sprinkled throughout the book, along with photos of their work to give you inspiration.

Stagnant water barrel

Q: I’ve had rain barrels for years and the water quality has always been great, but for some reason, this year both barrels are stagnant and smelly. The water is whitish, cloudy and filmy. Is there anything I can or should do about this?

A: It’s hard to pinpoint the cause, but something may have washed into the barrels from the roof or gutters, said Katie Giacalone of the Clemson University Restoration Institute and co-author of the guide “Rainwater Harvesting for Homeowners.” Or water could be backing up at the exit, she said.

Giacalone said it wouldn’t hurt to put a capful or two of chlorine bleach in the water, although she wouldn’t recommend that if you’re using the water on a vegetable garden or if some of the water will go straight into a storm sewer.

She recommended cleaning the barrel with some Castile soap and water at the end of the season. Inspect all the screening and pieces to make sure the barrel is still protected from mosquitoes and the parts that are attached with silicon will all stay in place with no leaks.

If your barrels are in the shade, it’s unlikely you have a problem with algae. But it’s worth mentioning an algae-prevention tip from Victoria Mills, executive director of the Doan Brook Watershed Partnership in Shaker Heights, Ohio. She said homeowners whose barrels are in the sun can paint them a dark color to block out the light and inhibit algae growth.

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