It seems like just yesterday Sussex County residents were basking in the sun, driving with the sun roof opened, and eating watermelon. The summer season seems to get shorter and shorter every year while autumn blazes in and out in a flash. Before you know it, the holidays will be here and with them, the chilling temperatures of winter. Here's a peek into the next several weeks as fall comes to an end and everyone prepares for the excitement, and the doldrums of those long winter months. Take in the patio furniture. Indian summer is long gone. Pools need to be winterized by a professional and it's a good idea to cover filters and heaters to provide some protection from the snow and ice. Get to the gym. There's still time to get in shape before the holidays. Andy Ball, manager of Sparta Athletic Club says "This is a time of year when people are looking to shed some weight and tone up. Everyone wants to look and feel good for the holidays." To avoid burst water pipes, turn off your valves leading to outside spigots. Secure an unstable mailbox now, before snow plow season. Tony Gonnella from the post office in Sparta reminds everyone to get your holiday stamps early to avoid the long lines. Mail your holiday invitations out early, giving yourself and your guests plenty of time to plan ahead. Steve Vigliotti, owner of Byram Moto Photo suggests an early start for holiday cards and photo gift items. "Now is the time to start thinking about and scheduling your holiday portrait card photos. We have so many new photo gift ideas such as puzzles, mugs, tee shirts, mouse pads, key chains and more" Start your Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving, leaving yourself time to experience other aspects of the holiday season that don't include the mall. Leave holiday and toy catalogs where your loved ones can see them to spark some interest in writing their wish lists ahead of time. The stores are stocked with those hot ticket items now, so don't put off purchasing them or you may be disappointed by an out of stock or rain check item later on. Don't wait for that first chilly night, get your flannel sheets, heating blankets and comforters out of storage. Are you ready for holiday overnight guests? What shape are your extra pillows in? Continue to give your pet heart worm prevention medication throughout the fall and winter. "One warm day is all it takes for mosquitoes to wake up and reappear" says veterinary Dr. Lori Walker. "Remember that anti-freeze is deadly to animals, destroying their kidneys. They are attracted to it because of its sweet taste. And dont forget to make sure water sources dont freeze and your outside pet has a warm, dry place to go to, to get out of frigid temperatures" Specials for carpet and upholstery cleaning are being offered now. Schedule soon for the date you want and avoid the holiday rush. Start baking and cooking early and freeze your goodies. Pies and cookies freeze well and surprisingly so do many main dishes. Rick Grecco, of Grecco Landscaping in Lafayette suggests that now is the time to put deer proof netting around your bushes, rake leaves and cut grass short. "A late fall application of lawn fertilizer high in phosphorus and potassium and low in nitrogen helps to build up root growth. Your lawn should be limed to balance ph levels. We have an instrument to test your lawns ph levels. We can also protect you ornamental bushes and trees by spraying them with a horticultural spray which smothers insects and their eggs that survive the winter." Take your screens off the windows. Snow and ice can cause damage to them. Now is the time to get both screens and windows cleaned. Look in the mail for money saving coupons for local window cleaning services, most have holiday specials. According to Janice Henry of De'Angelos Garden World in Newton, now is the time to plant spring bulbs if you haven't already done so. "It's also a good time to spray your bushes with a product called "Wilt Pruf" to help them maintain moisture and resist windburn. Put rose collars on rose bushes and burlap on delicate ones." Before the freezing temps hit and you set out in your car on slick roadways, its smart to get your car checked out. "All fluids need to be checked. Your tires should have a lot of rubber tread on them. We recommend that all cars have snow tires. The rubber compound is better and the tread pattern is more aggressive for cold weather roads", says Daniel Velez, manager of STS Tire and Auto Center in Sparta. Clean the gutters on your roof. Melting snow and ice can not flow if clogged with leaves. Before you light that first fire in the fireplace try to remember the last time you had your chimney cleaned. Pat Ferrie, owner of Country Chimney Sweeps and Masons in Sparta, suggests scheduling an inspection and cleaning before you start making fires. "Don't go longer than two years without an inspection because you are risking a chimney fire. I recommend chimney caps with screens to avoid animals nesting in your chimney, and also water damage and flying sparks. Furnace flues need to be cleaned out about every five years." Take a good hat and glove inventory, suggests Lena Shugart, mother of three in Sparta. "What fits, what doesn't, what matches coats, where's the other mitten?" Standing on that bus stop will be getting very cold very soon and before you know it you'll be scrambling in search of these warming accessories. Shugart suggests hanging a plastic shoe organizer inside a closet door and stashing those items into each compartment for easy access.