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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Snow removal

Before Winter Storms and Extreme Cold

Add the following supplies to your disaster supplies kit:

* Rock salt to melt ice on walkways
* Sand to improve traction
* Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.

Prepare your home and family

* Prepare for possible isolation in your home by having sufficient heating fuel; regular fuel sources may be cut off. For example, store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
* Winterize your home to extend the life of your fuel supply by insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows, and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic.
* Winterize your house, barn, shed or any other structure that may provide shelter for your family, neighbors, livestock or equipment. Clear rain gutters; repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm.
* Insulate pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing.
* Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.
* Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).
* Know ahead of time what you should do to help elderly or disabled friends, neighbors or employees.
* Hire a contractor to check the structural ability of the roof to sustain unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow - or water, if drains on flat roofs do not work.

Prepare your car

* Check or have a mechanic check the following items on your car:
o Antifreeze levels - ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
o Battery and ignition system - should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.
o Brakes - check for wear and fluid levels.
o Exhaust system - check for leaks and crimped pipes andrepair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
o Fuel and air filters - replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas.
o Heater and defroster - ensure they work properly.
o Lights and flashing hazard lights - check for serviceability.
o Oil - check for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
o Thermostat - ensure it works properly.
o Windshield wiper equipment - repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level.
* Install good winter tires. Make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
* Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season.
* Place a winter emergency kit in each car that includes:
o a shovel
o windshield scraper and small broom
o flashlight
o battery powered radio
o extra batteries
o water
o snack food
o matches
o extra hats, socks and mittens
o First aid kit with pocket knife
o Necessary medications
o blanket(s)
o tow chain or rope
o road salt and sand
o booster cables
o emergency flares
o fluorescent distress flag

Dress for the Weather

* Wear several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
* Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.
* Wear a hat.
* Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.

For safety sake, homestead fuel storage must be handled properly by Emory Warner Issue #43

Home storage of fuel is a necessity for homesteaders. Even if you are still on the grid, your truck, tractor, standby generator, etc. will still require fuel. I intend to offer appropriate methods of storage for LP gas, gasoline, diesel fuel, and kerosene. I will also offer some tips on safe fuel handling.
Fuel types
LP gas is one of the easiest fuels to store and also one of the most dangerous. It is a highly versatile fuel which can be used to power internal combustion stationary engines, tractors, and other motor vehicles, as well as for cooking and heating. LP has two serious drawbacks: First, it must be stored under pressure to remain a liquid; any leak (which may not be visible) could leak away all of your fuel without your knowledge. Second, LP is only slightly heavier than air, and will disperse at the exact ratio to produce an explosion. It will also “puddle” in low spots, waiting for an ignition source.

Salvaged 275 gallon horizontal fuel tank with hand fuel pump and filter.  This type of pump is suited for all fuels; current use is for diesel fuel. Salvaged 275 gallon horizontal fuel tank with hand fuel pump and filter. This type of pump is suited for all fuels; current use is for diesel fuel.
Gasoline has the advantage of being a liquid at room temperature. But it is probably the hardest fuel to store for any length of time. It has a high vapor pressure (which means it evaporates quickly) and will go stale in a few weeks if not chemically treated. It does have a fairly high ignition temperature (about 1100° F) even though it does not need a large volume of heat to ignite. Stored gasoline must be treated with a BHT additive like Sta-Bil and protected from moisture if it is to be stored for any length of time.
Large quantities of gasoline make me nervous. I used to live on the water in southern Maryland, and was witness to several boat explosions and fires due to gasoline vapor in the bilges.
Kerosene is one of the easiest fuels to store, and is more versatile than most people think. It does not evaporate as readily as gasoline and will remain stable in storage with no special treatment. Many pre-1950 farm tractor engines were designed to run on kerosene, and diesels will run on kerosene if necessary. Kerosene stoves and refrigerators are also available and would definitely be preferable to LP models from the safety standpoint.
Diesel fuel stores almost as easily as kerosene and is becoming more and more popular among the self sufficient. It is difficult to ignite intentionally and almost impossible to ignite by accident. Two grades are available: #1 diesel which is old-fashioned yellow kerosene, and #2 diesel which is the same thing as #2 home heating oil. (You may see literature to the contrary, but #2 diesel is #2 heating oil. Period.) Diesel fuel presents its own unique storage problems: The first is that it is somewhat hygroscopic; that is, it will absorb moisture from the air. The second and related problem is sludge formation. Sludge is the result of anaerobic bacteria living in the trapped water and eating the sulfur in the fuel. Left untreated, the sludge will grow until it fills the entire tank, ruining the fuel. Stored diesel fuel should be treated with a biocide like methanol or diesel Sta-Bil as soon as it is delivered. Unique to #2 is the fact that some paraffin wax is dissolved in the fuel and will settle out at about 20° F, clogging the fuel filter. This “fuel freezing” may be eliminated by adding 10% gasoline or 20% kerosene to the diesel fuel. Commercial diesel fuel supplements are also available to solve the same problem. Diesel should be filtered before use.

Thirty dollar drum pump mounted on a 55-gallon drum of kerosene. This type of piston pump is not suitable for gasoline. Thirty dollar drum pump mounted on a 55-gallon drum of kerosene. This type of piston pump is not suitable for gasoline.
Alcohol (ethanol) is not commonly considered a storage fuel, but here is the data on it for those who distill their own. Alcohol is as hygroscopic as it gets, and must be stored in a sealed container to prevent moisture contamination. It is about as volatile as kerosene and presents the unique problem, when ignited, of burning with an almost invisible blue flame. It may be best to store the raw material for stilling the alcohol and producing the fuel as needed, rather than producing a large quantity and storing it.
Whatever fuel you store, it would be a good idea to monitor your fuel usage and plan your storage around a 90-day supply.
Safe fuel handling
Regardless of the fuel in question, all liquid fuels should be handled in the same matter as the most volatile, which is either gasoline or LP gas. Fuel should be stored in an isolated area, downhill and downwind from any other buildings. Fuel vapors are heavier than air, and will flow downhill. LP tanks should be left in the open and not enclosed in any way. Liquid fuel tanks can and should be stored in a well-ventilated building or open lean-to to prevent solar heating from evaporating the fuel. If the storage location is permanent, consider using a buried tank. If set below the frost line, temperatures are stable at 55° F or so, which will inhibit evaporation. The tanks will be safe from everything, including stray (or aimed!) gunfire, brushfires, and just about everything else except the EPA. If buried fuel tanks offend your sense of environmental responsibility, then consider an underground vault. This has the added advantage of being able to inspect the tanks from time to time.

One type of approved and properly marked portable fuel cans. One type of approved and properly marked portable fuel cans.
Regardless of the tank location, a dry chemical or C02 fire extinguisher should be hung on the outside of the building or near the pump. Any electrical fixtures should be “explosion proof” (sealed) and wired in sealed conduit to prevent fuel vapors from coming into contact with electrical sparks. Prohibit smoking or carrying of smoking materials within 50 feet of the fuel pumps. Electrical fuel pumps should have a heat sensitive shutoff to stop the pump in the event of fire. Always shut down the engine of the machine being fueled. Promptly clean up any spills. Last of all, be certain to use only the equipment that is approved for the fuel in question. (Some fuel pumps are approved for diesel only, and are unsafe to use for gasoline.)
Fuel storage methods
Liquid fuels use the same storage systems and will be covered as a group. LP gas is normally stored in pressurized tanks supplied by the LP dealer, and will be only briefly covered.
The most basic fuel storage system is the common portable fuel can. If you are still on the grid and have a job “off the property,” then this is a workable and economical method of fuel storage. A minimum of three cans will be required: one full at all times, one for use as needed, and one to be refilled at the first opportunity.
Rotation of the cans will ensure some amount of reasonably fresh fuel at all times. This storage system has the added advantage of portability in the event that the storage site must be abandoned. Use only approved containers, and use caution not to mix up containers. The standard color code for portable cans is blue for kerosene, red for gasoline, and yellow for diesel fuel. This is not cast in stone. Use whatever color scheme you like, but be consistent with it. Gasoline introduced into a diesel tank will make the diesel engine hard to start when hot. Gasoline in a kerosene heater will explode like a Molotov cocktail. Diesel #2 in a kerosene lamp will smoke and stink and soot up the globe. If you use all three fuels like we do, it seems that you will be filling a fuel can every time that you go out. Delivered fuel is much more convenient, and usually cheaper.

A horizontal drum storage system. Front and rear 2x6s are notched to hold drums and are bolted to 4x4 posts. Braces are 2x4s. This would be nice to have under a lean-to beside the tractor shed. A horizontal drum storage system. Front and rear 2x6s are notched to hold drums and are bolted to 4x4 posts. Braces are 2x4s. This would be nice to have under a lean-to beside the tractor shed.
The next storage system is the 55-gallon drum used with a hand pump or horizontally on a rack. This is a highly flexible storage system, as drums may be added as needed to suit individual requirements. Most fuel dealers have a 100-gallon minimum delivery, so at least two drums will be needed. You can even load one drum in your truck, drive to the service station and fill it, then bring it home and pump the fuel into your storage drum. Drums are also portable enough in the event that the storage site must be abandoned. The only disadvantages are the negligible cost of the drums and that the drums will eventually rust and leak. We use drums for our kerosene and gasoline storage. Label each drum clearly if you are storing more than one type of fuel.
If you wish to store large quantities of fuel, then the built-for-the-purpose fuel tank is the system of choice. Tanks are available new in capacities from 100 to 10,000 gallons in above ground and underground types.
Most commonly used here in the Northeast is the standard residential 275-gallon fuel tank. These are available new at plumbing and heating suppliers for about $150. Used tanks are usually available free for the hauling, including whatever fuel is in them. As a side note, an individual with a pickup truck and a reciprocating saw could make a fairly decent living removing old fuel tanks as homeowners change away from fuel oil to natural gas. This is about the dirtiest work available, and pays about $100 per tank. The removed tanks could be cleaned up, painted, and resold for $50 or more. I have accumulated about five or six tanks in the last few years without really looking for them.
Fuel dispensing is a matter of choice. An elevated tank needs only a valve and filter; gravity will do the rest. We prefer to use hand pumps for our kerosene and diesel tanks. Valves have been known to leak, and vandalism is an unfortunate reality of modern life—especially if the vandal elects to open the valve on a tank of gasoline and follow it up with a lit match. Hand pumps are safer, and they are more easily secured if the tank must be left unattended.
The author’s system
My personal fuel storage system is a salvaged 275-gallon fuel tank with a hand pump and filter for our diesel fuel storage. Our principal tractor is diesel powered. We also use it to operate a PTO (power takeoff) generator for standby use. We use two or three 55-gallon drums for kerosene storage, with a lift pump for dispensing. (We rely on kerosene heaters to supplement our woodstove.) But, as I have a job “off the property,” and we have two old gasoline engine tractors, as well as a chainsaw, lawnmower, etc., the fuel can system works well for our gasoline supply. This is particularly suitable for us, as I feel uncomfortable about storing large quantities of gasoline.
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Close-up of tap water

Is your water safe to drink?

In the 1840's Great Britain had a Cholera outbreak, and in the 1970's Bangladesh dealt with arsenic poisoning.

In the US, there are reports of 5 Cholera cases per year, and 400 reports of typhiod. In 2000 25 States reported unhealthy levels of arsenic in the drinking water, as many as 56 million people are drinking that water. In 1997 the City of Cheney ranked number 35 of the highest arsenic levels in the US, finding 65.1 ppb. The EPA says that 10 ppb is the highest level you can have and still be safe.

The most comon types of poisions in your drinking water are as follows;

  • Arsenic -- The most common source of arsenic contamination in [ground water]] is the mobilization of naturally occurring arsenic on sediments.
  • Lead --The only way to know whether your tap water contains lead is to have it tested. You cannot see, taste, or smell lead in drinking water.
  • Fluoride --The weathering of primary rocks and leaching of fluoride-containing minerals in soils yield fluoride rich groundwater in India which is generally associated with low calcium content and high bicarbonate ions.
  • Toxins --Road salt, toxic substances from mining sites, and used motor oil also may seep into groundwater. In addition, it is possible for untreated waste from septic tanks and toxic chemicals from underground storage tanks to contaminate groundwater.
  • Heavy metal -- Years of mining for heavy metals has resulted in abandoned mines that are a source of ground- and surface-water contamination in many areas.
  • Pesticide -- Pesticide water contamination occurs through Non-degraded pesticides migrating to groundwater. 95 percent of the rural population world over relies on ground water to meet their drinking water need.
  • Antibiotics -Antibiotics are widely used in human and veterinary medicines for disease treatment. They are also largely used in animal operations for growth promotion and for disease prophylaxis. They are often partially metabolized after administration and a significant portion of the antibiotic can be excreted
You can find a list of Water borne diseass at the CDC website, here>>>

In an emergency you can purify your water by boiling it for 3-5 minutes. This will kill of the micro organisms, but not so anything to the heavy metals. You can also add a bit of bleach to your water, allow it to stand 30 minutes. This too will kill the micro organism but does nothing to your heavy metal problems. Even pouring the water into a clear bottle, capping it and sticking it into the sun for 6 hours will help kill off the micro organisms.

You can use cheese cloth, coffee filters or even your socks to filter the water.

You can store water safely, in a cool dark place for 6 months. Add a pinch of salt for every 1 gallon if it tastes "flat".

There are many water purification tablets and systems on the market. Do your research to find what is best for you

And by all means, have your water tested Contact your local extension office for more info.
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A Simple List of Preservation Tools

Preserving your harvest involves many tools. Canning your harvest is the most common way around here. You need to have a large pot to either cook and mix sauces, or to blanch (if the canning recipe calls for it). You will need several large wooden spoons and different sized rubber spatulas (or scrappers). Possibly coffee filters for draining. A funnel, strainer, and a jar lifter, as well as a kitchen towels. Jars and lids are a must! So is a very good knife.

You will also need to have a food mill, a hot water bath boiler,

a pressure canner {remember you can have the pressure tested at your local extension office, usually free.}

You need the proper ingredients for your recipe, and instructions if you don't know it by heart.

For freezing, you need the blanching pot, waxed paper, a freezer, and jars for storage.

Drying can use different methods, so different tools are called for. The first one is your smaller herbs. A paper sack or an envelope can be used to hold your herbs as you clothes pin them to a rope in a dry airy place.

Your onions, need to be laid out in the sun and cured for a while before braided and stored. Braiding tools needed are scissors, string and instructions. I lay mine out on an old bed sheet.

Jerky and larger veggies that you want to dry, need either a dehydrator (good for fruit leathers} a Box fan and Cotton heater filters, and a window, or an oven. Drying out tomatoes need those items and for sun dried you need cheese cloth.

I do not salt cure, or smoke cure yet.

Feel free to add anything that you use.


They say, although I don’t believe it, that you can never have too many shoes. What I do believe, with respect to hiking and backpacking, is that you can never pay too much for proper hiking footwear – including hiking socks.

Company Trip blistered feet
Image by wetwebwork via Flickr
Pamper your feet.
Hikers often don’t give enough thought and attention to their feet.
Your feet, compared to any other part of your body, carry the heaviest load of all while backpacking: the complete weight of your body, plus the weight of your backpack and its contents, plus the weight of all of the clothing and anything else that you hang on your body.
Your feet are vulnerable to the ravages of heat, cold, pounding, strain, friction, pain and blistering. To compensate for and help prevent these villains, hikers often pay top dollar for hiking boots or shoes. But, on the other hand (or should I say “on the other foot”), they pay little attention to their hiking socks.
Pamper your feet.
Make them happy and protect them with a great cooperative footwear system combining hiking boots or shoes and hiking socks.

Never again should you think in terms of boots or shoes as first in importance and socks in second place or somewhere way down the list. Think, rather, in terms of hiking boots or shoes and hiking socks working together as a highly effective footwear system designed to protect your feet.
Pamper feet.
As a collaborative part of your footwear system, hiking socks provide a number of services to your feet and, by extension, to you the hiker.
Hiking socks cushion your feet and help absorb the pounding that rough trails and long hikes throw at your feet. They provide a layer of protection in addition to what your hiking boots or shoes provide.
Just like insulation in your house, socks insulate against both heat and cold.
So, in cool and cold weather, they form, along with your hiking boots or shoes (remember, this is a footwear system), an added barrier against the cold.
In warm or hot weather, insulating socks help protect against debilitating heat. Heat can come from three sources: from the sun-heated air you are hiking in, from the strenuous exercise that hiking provides and from friction between your feet and your boots. Hiking socks and their porosity help vent out that heat, thus cooling your feet.

Blister Prevention
Friction between your skin and an object that it rubs repeatedly against will eventually cause two layers of your skin, the outer epidermis and the inner dermis, to separate from each other. The result of this separation is called a “blister”. The proper wearing of socks can help mitigate the rubbing and help prevent blisters. I say “help mitigate” because you can still get blisters while wearing socks. You can probably attest to this fact from experience – as I can.
Wearing liner socks underneath your cushioning socks can contribute to blister prevention. If you wear two pairs of socks made of proper materials, the friction will likely occur between the two pairs of socks instead of between your skin and a pair of socks.
Double Layering: So, if you choose to wear two pairs of socks for blister prevention or added insulation, you will have a pair of liner socks next to your skin and a pair of cushioning socks on top of those. On top of the latter, you will wear, of course, a good pair of boots to complete your service-rendering footwear system.
Wicking: Liner socks must have wicking properties to transport sweat away from your feet. They should be made of an effective wicking material like merino wool, silk or a synthetic material like polyester.
Smoothness: Liner socks must be as smooth as possible so they slide against your cushion socks and not against your skin. The properties of slickness and wicking ability are what makes liner socks effective in helping to prevent blisters.
Reject Cotton: Avoid cotton socks like the plague. Cotton absorbs and retains moisture. Perhaps more than any other factor, wearing cotton socks next to your skin contributes to the development of hotspots and blisters.
Wicking: Cushioning socks, worn between your liner socks and your boots or shoes, should also have wicking properties to get sweaty moisture completely away from your feet. In this way they work in tandem with your liner socks to help prevent blisters.
You may also wear cushioning socks without liners beneath therm. If you do this, you need to be doubly sure that the material they are made of does a good job of wicking. Wool, synthetics like polypropylene or nylon are a good bet. Wool blended with a synthetic fiber can also be a good choice.
Thickness and Softness
When buying socks, look for thick and soft materials. These will help your feet withstand and survive the pounding they will take on rough trails and long hikes. Their porous nature will also serve as good insulation and good venting of heat from your boots or shoes.
Look for socks without ridges or seams that can rub your skin and cause blisters.
If, in developing your protective footwear system, you buy your socks first, you can wear them while buying your hiking boots or shoes. Wearing them will contribute to a better fit in your boots or shoes and give an optimal hiking footwear system.
by Richard Davidian, Ph.D.
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Last Used 11/1/09