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How should I clean my old hardwood floors?

The most efficient way is to use a damp mop. Never use a wet mop, because excessive moisture can dull the finish and damage the wood. A little extra water on your damp mop is OK for deeper cleaner. You can also clean wood floors using a canister vacuum cleaner. Some come with specific attachments for cleaning hard flooring. These attachments are great for removing dust and grit and are gentler on your floors than some other cleaning methods.

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Where did the phrase "beating around the bush" come from?

This phrase means to avoid talking about the main point of something. Well-to-do hunters used to hire "beaters" to beat the bushes to arouse game birds so that the hunters could shoot them. This may be the origin of the expression.

When and where in New York City was the first Madison Square Garden built?

The first structure to be called Madison Square Garden was a roofless hippodrome at 26th Street and Madison Avenue that was previously leased by P. T. Barnum. It was unveiled to the public as Madison Square Garden on Memorial Day, 1879. The hippodrome was demolished in 1889, and the second Madison Square Garden was built on the same site, opening in June 1890. The third Madison Square Garden was built on Eighth Avenue in 1925, and the current Garden opened just up the block in 1968.

How do you get mildew and its musty smell out of carpeting?

Your best bet it to sprinkle the area with baking soda, let it sit for 15 minutes, and then vacuum it up. Or you could leave the baking soda on overnight. Removing the smell may take repeated applications, but eventually the baking soda should absorb all the odor. Test the carpet for colorfastness before treating a large area.

Due to the curvature of Earth, assuming a flat plane (such as the ocean), can you tell me the distance to what we see as the horizon?

The distance depends on the height of your eyes. Measure the distance to eye level in feet, multiply by three, divide by two, and take the square root of the answer. The result is the number of miles to the horizon. For example, if your eyes are about six feet above the ground or water level of a flat plane, the horizon is almost three miles away. If your eyes were exactly at ground or water level, there would be no distance at all; the horizon would be directly in front of you.

When is the best time to prune azaleas?

Azaleas usually need little pruning, but sometimes it is advisable to cut off a few twigs here and there to force thick growth. This should be done in spring. You also can pinch off the ends of growing twigs in spring. Doing so will force several side buds to grow and will result in a bushier shrub.

I purchased elephant's ear bulbs at a garden center, but no one there could tell me how deep to plant them or in what type of soil. Can you help?

A rule of thumb for planting bulbs is to dig a hole three times as deep as the bulb is high, although depth varies with soil type. In light soils, bulbs can be planted an inch or so deeper. In heavy soils, prepare a shallower hole and top with several inches of organic mulch. Elephant's ear likes shade and dampness and should be planted in moist, rich soil.

I have a cottonwood tree on the edge of my property, and the roots are so aggressive that they have extended throughout my yard and even under my house. They're already cracking the block wall around my property. How can I kill the tree before the roots damage the house's foundation and underground pipes and choke out my fruit trees?

We'd advise calling in a tree removal specialist without delay. The tree is running amok and would probably sneer at your puny attempts to rein it in.

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