Grow More With Vertical Garden

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA few years ago I was faced with an issue of needing to keep some seedlings warm, combined with not a lot of money to spend and limited resources. This meant being creative with what WAS available and the result is functional, cheap and reuses things that mostly would have been thrown away.

I already had an existing 4’x4′ compost bin created by putting together pallets. To this basic pallet compost bin I nailed a “ladder” framework. I then cut the bottoms off of 2 liter soda bottles, putting a hole in the cap before screwing it back on which insured water dripped out rather than pooling in the container. The bottom piece cut off – a small ‘bowl’ – I’ve used for starting seeds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce the framework was done and the bottles prepared the bottles were turned upside down and a small screw attached it to the frame. A larger screw was driven through the neck for solid support – I used 1-7/8″ screws but 2″ would have given a little more security. The bottles were arranged 10 across the 4′ span, with the base arranged so it funnels into the bottle below it. The bottom row drips into containers. In this way watering the top layer goes through to drip into the 2nd layer. If, in the case of rain, it is too much it continues to trickle down and finally out the containers if excessive.

Once the bottles were arranged, it’s a matter of filling them – I used a handful of broken up leaves in the bottom followed by a soil mixture. The mix is compost, soil, manure and bagged top soil. On one side there are 20 pepper plants are in these, one to a container, with ten zucchini on the top layer. The zucchini will be ‘trained’ over the top providing shade over the compost bin as well as making use of space.

The other thought to this was keeping seedlings warm in case of an unexpected cold snap. A sheet of plastic from a farm store – less than $20 – was employed to go over the entire frame. The natural heat from the compost bin provides enough to, in the south, raise the temperature just that few degrees to keep them from getting nipped by frost.

Fancier materials from new purchase can be used with the same idea but for what was needed these have worked very well. It allows up to 170 plants in a 4×4′ space. For those with limited space, such as a patio or balcony, it would be easy to adapt to allow herbs and vegetables too be grown even if you don’t have a yard or garden area.

As it was used, in direct sun the soil will get too warm and ‘cook’ the roots, so plan the location well. Yes it will fall apart in a few years – but $30 for five years is not a bad value.

Tips for Raising Dairy Goat Kids

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADairy goats are an animal that people seem to either love or hate. Raising dairy goat kids is a key part in keeping these animals as well as insuring that you have a continuous supply of milk with each generation being better than the one before. As you become familiar with these animals you will see a side that few others do. The purpose of breeding is to make the next generation better as even the best doe will not last forever. Having healthy, quality daughters to step up in her place insures a steady supply of milk, but this doesn’t come without a plan and a fair share of time.

Pound for pound a good dairy goat can outmilk a cow. In an open ag forum I would get teased by dairy cattle people and at the first insult of my goats I issued the challenge. The fact is a good Alpine in the herd milked 18 pounds per day on official test, and at roughly 100 pounds that’s producing more than her body weight in milk every week. Seen another way, a 1,000 pound cow at 10 times the body weight would have to produce 180 pounds (also 10 times) to equal her and that simply does not happen. This was a good doe but not even close to the world record holder. That title goes to a registered Toggenburg.

Heavy producing does need good management to maintain that kind of production without taking a toll on her body. These are the kind of does to product to the bucks for daughters that continue the family tradition. Often those criticizing the goat see the other side of the picture. This is the low production, hard keeping doe with poor tasting milk often because she’s grazing on brush and garbage forage that do not meet her nutritional needs. The dairy doe, like her growing kids, needs good nutrition to perform at her best.

As a homesteader you want the former type of animal or her daughters, whether or not they are purebred. Don’t gauge butterfat or production on breed as this can lead you wrong and any doe said to produce “a gallon a day” should have a clearly visible milk vein’ that runs on the underside of her belly. I’ve never seen a heavy milker without that vein clearly visible no matter what size the udder is.

Once you select your dairy kids from these types of animals you need to start early to keep them growing and healthy. If you are raising them from early on make sure they get plenty of colostrum from the doe, preferably two or three feedings. Due to some health issues many people remove the kids from the doe and pasteurize the milk. This also insures there is milk for the people as well as limits the damage a kid can do to a doe’s udder when aggressively nursing.

Contrary to often stated opinion goats do not “eat everything” and as you start feeding them you will wish sometimes that was true! They will nibble on many things and do have an appetite for boxes because it’s fiber. However, from early on the young dairy goat needs quality feed.

This means good clean hay and plenty of it! If you can find alfalfa mix hay so much the better. Have a feeder the goats need to reach into in order to eat and minimize what is pulled out of the feeder if it hits the ground many goats will not touch it! This adds up to a major cost for the homesteader as wasted hay may not be bad, just on the ground. Some people run a couple of hair sheep with their dairy goats to clean up such hay and make use of it!

Plenty of clean water is needed also for the growing dairy goat. Make sure the tank or bucket is cleaned often and keep it (again!) from where feet or debris can get into the water.

Many breeders provide a trace mineral block as well as a good mineral. If you run any lambs with the goats watch the copper level in the mineral goats need it but sheep can ingest toxic amounts of it. Don’t be tempted to feed sheep mineral but rather use a mineral for dairy cattle. The difference in this became clear when a change meant darker, richer colors on the Toggenburgs and a better hair coat on the goats. Some things goats and sheep are the same but in many you will need to adapt things down from dairy cattle.

Deworm young goats and treat for coccidia, a parasite that can kill a young goat remarkably quickly. This means treating with Albon or other drugs for coccidia as a regular wormer does not kill them. A good quality grain should be fed as soon as the kids will start nibbling on it. Don’t overfeed though as this can cause stomach upset which can be fatal.

There are not many vaccinations needed for dairy goats but a couple that shouldn’t be skimped on are tetanus and C&D. These will cost you under $8 including the disposable syringe and needle. The C&D helps protect against enterotoxaemia or “overeating”, a digestive upset that can be fatal. Tetanus is advised especially if there has been or are horses on the property.

Dairy got kids need a dry clean place to live. Dry is important as it not only prevents health problems but also prevents parasites. Good quality dairy got kids are an investment in your food supply. Feed and house them well and they will return it many times over not only in milk but also in their antics. There’s the occasional kid that especially likes people that grows into the doe that is always following you thisclose and it makes it even more rewarding to be able to say “I raised her.”

5 Important Tips to Starting Chicks

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASpring is near and for many that means the peeping of chicks being started inside. Selection of a breed that works for you is important, but once your research finds those birds, a good hatchery and your order is placed there are some important things to have in place when the chicks arrive. Ideally this will be set up so it makes the transition easy.

Chicks absorb the nutrition from the yolk before hatching, which allows them to be shipped the first day without food or water. However, on arrival they will need a good start to stay healthy and thriving. You’ll need a clean brooder to start with. Hold off on bedding at first, simply having a clean bare floor. The brooder need not be fancy – a commercially made one can be used or you can adapt from many options. I’ve used a rabbit carrier inside a box as an effective way to start small batches of chicks, with 12-15 in each section of the carrier. Once the chicks identify food then bedding can be added to help keep a solid floored brooder dry.

Safety. Too many times those heat lamps are not properly hung, or a cord is frayed or worn. This is critical as too many fires result from such simple and relatively inexpensive fixes. Make sure the light doesn’t come in contact with flammable materials. Temperature is important! You want the temperature at the chick’s level to be 95 degrees. If chicks are too cold they will pile in a corner or on top of each other…often the strongest ones push underneath to the center and are then smothered by the others. Make sure the chicks have enough heat – if they’re avoiding the heated area then it’s too warm, but they shouldn’t be crowding on top of each other either. A good balance is the ability to retreat to food and water and a cooler area if they want to but plenty of warmth. The temperature should be reduced by five degrees per week until the chicks are feathered out, when they can begin transitioning outside.

Feeders should be easy to find and filled with a good starter. This gets the birds started with all the vitamins and nutrition they need to thrive and become productive layers. It also supports muscle growth for meat birds. Make sure there is enough space for all chicks to have room at the feeder. A general rule of thumb is an inch of linear space per bird. Initially, because the brooder has no bedding, you can spread several small piles around the brooder. This makes it very easy for chicks to find feed and start eating.

Waterers should be cleaned and filled on arrival. Some people prefer a little sugar in the water for an energy boost, some prefer electrolytes and some prefer just plain water, but have it filled. As you pull each chick from the shipping box quickly dip their beaks in the water before letting them go. This shows them where water is, as well as the normal reflex of raising their heads to swallow. Quick introduction to water is important to combat any dehydration from their journey. Once bedding is put in the brooder, I like to (before bedding) but a small block, just a couple inches tall, to raise the waterers up. This helps keeps bedding out of the water, but be sure chicks can reach the water (no more than back high).

These five basic things can be provided many ways from reused materials to new name brand equipment. The important thing is attention to detail for healthy birds!

Keeping Chickens as Productive Pets

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChickens are among the most productive of pets, and if numbers are an indication the back yard poultry movement is booming. Chickens are no longer cast in the barnyard to fend for themselves nor strictly farmed in volume – there are more options including pastured poultry and those with a dozen or less birds for eggs.

For most people interested in raising chickens for their own use it comes to whether you want to raise meat birds or keep hens for eggs. This can make a difference in the choice of breeds or the time from hatching to the table. The commercial industry uses white feathered birds but for home production there is no standard restriction.

Those interested in raising some meat chickens would do well to keep it at 25 or 50 in the order. That’s a chicken a week if they all survive, for the freezer. Many hatcheries will run specials sometimes a “frying pan special” which you can get a good deal price wise. Most of the birds will be cockerels, the less valued side of the quest for hens. Leghorn type are cheap but take a couple extra weeks to get to weight; larger birds can also take slightly longer maturing.

Most people looking for chickens for the back yard will be looking at ordering pullets and raising them for egg layers. Depending on the room available you can choose from white, brown or colored egg layers in a wide range of colors. Generally they will begin laying in about six months or so depending on breed. Some popular breeds for brown egg layers have been Plymouth Rocks, Wyandottes, Orpingtons, Dominiques and Rhode Island Reds.

Those with more room may enjoy the larger breeds such as Orpingtons, Brahmas or Jersey giants. Those with less room can still have the bantam varieties of many of these breeds or silkies which take less room and feed, produce smaller eggs but are still completely edible.

Chickens are often thought of for eggs and meat but another factor when you’re keeping chickens is manure. This can be added to the compost pile for fertilizing the gardens. Typically chickens will scratch dry any wet spots looking for bugs…which reduces flies and other pests.

Confined to a portable or stationery pen they are low maintenance pets that don’t bark all night, can let themselves out of the shelter in most areas and don’t need vaccinations. They don’t need daily walks or expensive toys, eagerly make use of many kitchen scraps and while they aren’t often “lap pets” they’re no less entertaining to sit and watch.

Make sure zoning is not a problem to keeping them, and do strive to keep them contained, odor free and well kept. There is a wide range of colors, feather type, sizes and appearances available from fancy to ordinary.

Did you know – A typical layer hen can mature at standard 5-9 pounds, smaller for bantams. Some crossbreds can be “sex linked” – or have colored females and white males at hatching. Pullets (females) eliminate having to deal with roosters and crowing.

5 Top Romantic Destinations in the South and Midwest

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhether for a romantic vacation, a honeymoon or an anniversary a romantic destination can make memories. Sometimes romance isn’t always where but the surrounding situation. There are many places around the world that are wonderful romantic destinations but the price to get there and enjoy it limits somewhat those who can go. Staying right here in the rural south and Midwest can inspire romance. For those who live in the city it’s a chance to visit an area they might never see otherwise. Here are five of the best romantic getaways for your 2009-2010 romantic trip.

1.Take a trip for two that gets you in one of the most romantic settings in the world. Both USA Today and Glamour called the Monmouth Plantation in Natchez Mississippi “one of the top ten most romantic places in America and it makes this list too as the beginning of a romantic trip or as the sole destination. Sitting on 26 manicured acres north of New Orleans this is a historic home, now a luxurious place to stay that is rich in history and provides a setting for romance. The backdrop is there – you make it memorable! There are meals for breakfast and dinner, but not lunch. Of course that is the ideal reason to pack a picnic for two and enjoy the time with just the two of you.

This is the oldest settlement along the Mississippi River, and in the days before the Civil War was second only to New York City in volume of millionaires. Natchez is also the beginning of ‘the Trace’ – a 440 mile route connecting Natchez with Nashville Tennessee. Get off the interstates, fast paced living and follow this historic route that takes you through some of the most beautiful country in the south. This is not a trip for speed – it’s a trip for romance and memories! At the other end is another romantic destination.

2.Nashville Tennessee is well known for country music but there is more to Nashville than just this. Remember some of the most romantic songs in country music were conceived and written here! Take a carriage ride through the city, hit the historical spots and soak in the southern nightlife. There are organized honeymoon/anniversary getaway trips available that include many of the Nashville highlights including the Grand Old Opry.

3. If you’re looking for a different kind of romance – one with a beautiful setting, outstanding dining and luxury, consider a trip to Jekyll Island in Georgia. Organized packages are available at this seaside destination on the Georgia coast just north of the Florida line. Wedding packages are also available. Enjoy a romantic walk on the beach, massage and a variety of outdoor activities or stay in for one on one time in a beautiful accommodations.

4. Interested in a romantic escape with beautiful scenery, history, wine and vineyards? Yes I said these places were southern and Midwest – Lexington Kentucky is absolutely southern. Several outstanding hotels serve as a base for exploring a historic Shaker settlement, Talon Wine & Vineyards or Elk Creek Vineyard and many beautiful areas Kentucky has to offer. For the couple that likes horses this is a home run hit as there is also a deep history not only in Thoroughbreds but Saddlebreds and horses in general. This may sound an odd romantic destination for some but for those who love horses, history and the outdoors Lexington Kentucky is an ideal choice! Few think of Kentucky as a place for wine, vineyards and romance – which is exactly why you should! Less crowds, more romance!

5. Another escape – this one in Illinois – ideal for kindling romance is a trip to Galena. With beautiful B&B accommodations that sets the tone horse drawn carriage rides and an area that you will see a different side of Illinois. Famously known for being “flat and nothing but corn” or, alternately, “Chicago” this is a chance to see a part of Illinois that many never see. The rolling hills offer solitude and – if desired – indulgence. This is in northern Illinois so do pack for seasonal weather that can be perfect for sharing time in front of the fire on a cold winter night.

These are destinations that can be incredibly romantic, often less expensive than others and less crowded. Get away to the country setting – set the stage for romance. The rest is up to you!

Rodeo: Sport or Cruelty

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs the National Finals Rodeo draws the attention of many in rural areas, here’s one from the archives.

Rodeo not only is a sport but it’s a sport where the human is at the disadvantage. The amount of misinformation put forth by activists only harms their claim when common sense and illustrating it shows it to be false.

For example – the myth that animals buck because the ‘belt’ is too tight on their genitals. For mares the bucking strap is nowhere near their genitals and for geldings or stallions it is secured in front of it. Old books on livestock husbandry – those before widespread use of chutes and other devices to hold cattle in one place – show ways to run a rope around the area about where the bucking strap runs and when crossed around the body the right way it is restraint. Meaning the animal CAN NOT MOVE. Now if these bucking straps were that tight that the animal cannot move – well they could do no more than stand there so that nullifies that argument. The comparison to humans is another – put a belt on as tight as you can possibly pull it and go out and jump your – well we’ll make it easy – jump a 4′ obstacle.

Some books present that it’s cruel because the broncs have the steel bit jammed in their mouth and are mistreated because of it. I can guarantee that author has not been to a rodeo. NO *BRONC* has a bit in their mouth! Bareback horses are loose and saddle broncs have a halter with a rope rein. No bit, no hackamore, nothing to pull or injure the horse.

One of the most targeted of rodeos is the Salinas rodeo in California. Some years ago I attended and got a press pass. I was looking for the great story that would be a headline – camera in hand I went to the pens. I saw no cuts, broken bones, untreated injuries of any kind. All animals had all the hay they could eat, plenty of water in full water tanks. There were all these claims of abuse of animals at this rodeo – but what I *saw* to document was that they were better cared for than many in pastures across the country. Their feet were in good shape, they were in good condition. Not even indication of tooth issues could I find watching the eat.

I went up to the chutes – this was the place ‘torture’ existed right? I watched the bareback horses come in and each went from the gate in due time, no injuries incurred. Saddle broncs came in and I got closer. Close enough to rub the white face of a big bay bronc who was standing with one foot resting, as calmly as if he was in his own pasture. Horses that are stressed are tense, all feet braced in fear ready to get away. That wasn’t what was seen or photographed! His demeanor changed once saddled and leaving the gate as he became decidedly unfriendly about having someone on his back then once bucked off there was no need for further attitude. He came back to the gate, down the alley and returned to that big bale of hay and water.

Calves and steers all appeared in good shape also with no visible soreness noticed.

Are there injuries in rodeo? Of course there are! There’s injuries to thousands of dogs in their back yards too. There’s dogs who hang themselves on their collars but no one is looking to ban dogs from wearing collars.

There is much criticism of the use of cattle prods, but none of using electric fencing. I, personally, have been zapped by both. It’s perhaps a farm thing – but getting buzzed by hotshots in ‘hot shot tag’ was at one time apparently fun until the batteries wore out and it was needed to move cattle. These aren’t stun guns! It’s mildly uncomfortable and if you don’t know it’s coming startling. People do it with a variety of gadgets. Cattle don’t like it so move – which is usually the reaction wanted. They also learn that a hot wire fence feels the same so do not touch those if they can help it.

PRCA has guidelines to insure humane treatment. Stock contractors with valuable bulls and broncs are not going to let them get injured. Excessive force does no good nor does getting short tempered. There is no human that can make a bull stand still when he doesn’t want to. There is also no human that can make a bull or bronc buck hard enough to be competitive if they don’t want to do it.

It’s said the animals don’t have a choice but that simply is not true. A bull that saunters out of the chute on a regular basis that doesn’t buck no longer gets to go to rodeos – he DOES have a choice. Calves or steers that don’t run straight don’t stay in the herd long.

Then there’s broncs. These are horses that, if not for the rodeo, would have been killed. They had a second career because they had a choice and that was to buck riders off! There’s Classic Velvet, a quarter horse who is one of the greatest bareback horses of all time – many tried riding him and he wouldn’t quit bucking. That was used. Big Chill is an ex-competitor on the English show circuit that is extremely gentle on the ground but if he wouldn’t buck he’d still be sporting an English saddle! High Tide was a descendent of Man O War. Legendary bronc Midnight began his career in the 1920s after bucking off his owner when a car backfired.

Trails End, 1959 bucking horse of the year, was supposed to be a work horse, save for refusing to be ridden. He was sent to be a pack horse but got loose in the fall and wouldn’t be caught until spring. The pack being on him so long wore sores, and he would no longer allow a pack on him.

It’s well documented in other studies that abused horses don’t live long. When the respected bucking horse High Chaparral died peacefully in his stall he was 27 years old.High Tide was 38 years old and long retired when he died. Come Apart, another top level bucking horse, was almost 30 when he was bitten by a rattlesnake in the jugular vein after retirement. Skoal Sippin Velvet, another top bareback horse, was 26 when he died.

Bodacious was a charbray called the most dangerous bull in the world. He was retired at age 7 and at home an infection being treated with medications resulted in damage to his kidneys. He died at age 12. Red Rock, one of the most famous bulls in rodeo history, was 18 when he died. Tornado’s career was 14 years…putting him well over his teens.

Many horses not involved in rodeo do not live this long, and this is an indication of the quality of care these animals get. Ask how many 15 year old bulls are around in the dairy or beef barns. No industry is perfect, including “rescues” but cruelty is not something that is standard. The animals themselves indicate that.


Great Personalized Gifts Under $20

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometimes cheap holiday gifts are the way to go. This doesn’t mean that they won’t be cherished. Choose wisely and your under $20 gift may be the favorite one under the tree! Here are some holiday gifts for $20 or less.

Is there something that the recipient wants to do? Perhaps they’re thinking of starting a business but don’t have much startup cash, or they’re not sure what to do to get started. A book, purchased like new from Amazon or other online outlets can be a solution. Depending on what you find you may be able to give two or three books, with a good basic information to start. Perhaps they like to cook or want to start a garden or are trying to stretch the budget – all of these topics have a great deal of opportunity. Feedback from other readers can help also.

Music is always a good option and if there’s a favorite singer or band with a new cd out this is an easy under $20 item that is sure to be enjoyed and used! Be sure to find out if they have the CD before buying. A movie or DVD is another option that usually is under $20. These can be found not only at eBay and Amazon but also retail places such as Best Buy and Target through their online stores. You save money and time shopping from home and give a great gift.

Many magazines have specials this time of year. This is a gift that gives year round and can be on a particular interest or to help towards a goal. They can vary but some like Countryside covers gardens, recycling, small and large livestock and a wide range of other topics, and a year is just $18 US rate. $30 is over our limit here but springs for two years. Mother Earth News has long been a resource for the self sufficiency and recycling movement – pay at the time of order and give a gift for just $10 for a year! The Auto Restorer has a magazine tailor made for them – 12 issues just $20. Whatever the interest there’s a magazine out there!

Do some searching and find good used items for under $20 and sometimes free. Online acquaintances have found good items from breadmakers to food dehydrators for free or pennies on the dollar – this can be a great way to get someone an item they really want but can’t afford – without breaking your bank account either.

Finally don’t overlook making a gift. A bird lover may love a hand made bird house or bird feeder. A simple bookcase, table or many other items can be made. This can cost you materials (under $20) and a little time. Sometimes time is the most precious commodity and the use of it for a hand made gift means a great deal.

Many gift baskets can be purchased or made for under $20. Sometimes their favorite gift will be something that is a benefit no matter the cost.

Christmas gift giving doesn’t have to break the bank. With a little thought you may find you have enough for two gifts still at or under $20.

Enjoy Candles Without Getting Burned

Candles are a popular item in many homes not only during the Christmas season but year round. Candles can set soft light for a romantic dinner or non-electric light for watching television. They can warm potpourri and offer a variety of scents. However the risk of open flame means using candles wisely and taking precautions to insure safety.

Position your candles on a solid surface out of reach of children or pets. Using candles wisely means not setting it near an edge where the cat can knock it off the shelf or the dog or child reaching for a treasure tips it into the curtain behind it. Use the right kind of candle in the right place.

Tea lights and small candles provide a smaller more controlled use but still generate heat. The large pillar candles can burn for hours but far too many people simply set them on a wobbly plate or on the shelf. Tapered candles are attractive but must be secured solidly on a holder that doesn’t tip with the weight.

Here’s a few possible safety features for using candles in the home. For small candles reuse a clean glass jar, with some clean sand (maybe even a few decorative small shells!) in the bottom. Place the candle in the sand obviously you will need a larger jar for the large pillar candles than the smaller votive ones. This provides the light from the candles while reducing the chances that being tipped over results in a fire. First the sand extinguishes flame and also the glass increases the chance it’ll be confined in the jar not on something flammable. This is why *glass* not plastic jars are preferred. Also the candle is easily “confined” when extinguished for the night with the lid simply put on the jar. Using candles wisely this increases the chances that in the case of accidental tipping of the candle it would not catch anything on fire.

Another less visible possibility is taking a clean metal can, filling with water and freezing. When solidly frozen, using a hammer and hails put a “connect the dot” pattern in the side of the can. When the ice melts out you are left with a can with holes in it a little sand in the bottom and you have a metal candle holder that instead of showing an open flame shows an original pattern of artwork. This is an easy winter craft for older children to do.

Never leave a candle burning unattended, even with this precaution. Fire spreads far too easily to give it any kind of a head start! Keep the candles away from flammables. This seems obvious but often we don’t see things until it is too late. Using candles wisely means looking for these hidden hazards’ and eliminating them.

Keep the candles out of drafts or air currents to allow for more even burning and less dripping of hot wax. Resist moving a lit candle to prevent spilling hot wax and dropping the candle. Using candles wisely is not difficult but it does take a few points of attention to details and preventing any intentional or accidental ignition of items around the candle.

Some fire statistics shows that where candles are involved 38% of them began in the bedroom. Of those the ignition point was mattresses or bedding (11%) and curtains or draperies (10%). This is a great many fires prevented just using the above precautions a headboard is not a stable surface and if one falls asleep it’s far too easy to knock over a lit candle. Keeping candles away from draperies is essential also. According to the US Fire Administration falling asleep is a factor in 12% of the fires and a quarter of the deaths from those fires. Half of the fires from candles occur between midnight and 6 a.m. with, tragically, Christmas being the peak time.

This is not a reason to avoid candles or stop using them! Instead it is a call to use candles wisely have precautions in place and follow safety measures every time. Candles add much to our homes and many of us enjoy using them, but practice using candles wisely and safely every time you light one up.

Finding TV Bargains Without Christmas Shopping Crowds

Television_setFinding bargains on TVs is easier today than ever before.While many don’t have a television in their rural home, others enjoy watching live television or even just for watching DVDs and movies.

With the use of the internet we can search in surrounding towns as well as further away. It saves us gas, time and increases the selection. However, unlike many items that are easy to ship finding Christmas bargains on TVs isn’t as easy if it seems sometimes when shipping is considered. Here are five ideas for finding bargains on TVs that don’t involve what can seem like a rugby match trying to get the few on store special!

1. Local pawn shops can be a source of many items especially in a down economy as people need a little extra help. They take in an item thinking they’ll be back in a month and one more thing goes wrong – and the item is up for sale. Often the TVs and other electronics can be hooked up to see that they work. Some may have a cosmetic scratch. Thrift stores in some areas also have televisions although many are older.

2. – if you’re ready to buy with cash in hand, then Craigslist can be a way to get a good used or barely used TV. A recent post on the Nashville list, for example, showed a LG 30″ super slim direct view integrated HDTV for $240. From the Denver list a Vizio 32″ LCD HDRV Still in the box was $500 – $150 off the store price.

3. – yes they have electronics! Name brands with accessories, suchc as Samsung 52 inch recently advertised at almost $400 off, in stock with free shipping at $1509. what you are looking for depends on how big of a bargain you’ll get but there are deals to be had if you simply want a nice TV at a savings. With shipping available it eliminates having to go anywhere or fight the crowds.

4. Don’t overlook “scratch merchandise” sales or outlets. Sometimes an appliance gets a scratch or is bumped and damaged on the corner. It’s still perfectly fine operationally but if you look close there’s that slight imperfection. Is that worth $100, 200, 300 off? For many people the answer is YES!

5. advertises many electronics including TVs with advertised free shsipping. They recently advertised Phillips 42″ televisions for $98 with a 65″Mitsubishi for around $1500.

These are places often overlooked as sources for electronics including televisions for the home or as Christmas gifts. If you can handle the idea that the item is used or may be slightly damaged it’s a great way to save money and/or get a bigger TV than you thought you could.

Beautiful and Energy Efficient Christmas Display Tips

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADecorating for Christmas doesn’t have to result in breaking the bank for electrical costs. For many people heating costs add to the power bills already in December and although the lights aren’t the same as electric heat, they do add to the meter spinning. Decorating for Christmas can be beautiful and conservative. Here are some Christmas decorating tips.

If you are in an open area one easy way to make the most of the sunny days is using lights that are solar powered. These have a small charger that automatically charges as the sun comes out so long as the power cell area is cleared off. There is also a sensor that turns the lights on automatically at dark. This adds nothing to your power bill! Although the lights often aren’t as blazing bright the glow of Christmas doesn’t need to be neon!

Another option is using conventional lights but having them on a timer to come on at, for example, 6 p.m. and turn off at midnight. This allows your lighted display to be enjoyed in the evening hours but not run all night when there are few to see it. From midnight to 6 a.m. is 42 hours per week that the lights are not on – which can add up!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChoose energy efficient lights and make use of timers on the Christmas tree as well as outdoor lights. This insures no one forgets to unplug the tree before bed and also gives a consistent turning on of lights that can appear someone is plugging them in.

Still another option is to have an unlighted display with solar lights illuminating it. These lights can be standard ones that often sell in a package for about $20. A soft glow on a manger scene, for example, can save money and capture the spirit of the season.

Look to non-powered displays such as candles set up in luminary fashion. Be sure to secure the bag or can solidly so it doesn’t blow or tip over and so the candle doesn’t start a fire in dry leaves or other debris.

Decorate posts on yard lights with safe tinsel or plastic wreath garland. These are very inexpensive and the evergreen looking garland can be offset with weatherproof ribbon for the maximum in energy efficient Christmas decorations – those that use no electricity.

Using evergreens in the yard is a natural way to decorate. You can even add a natural touch with securing suet feeders nearby to encourage live birds to add to a display. Brightly colored cardinals, wrens and other songbirds appreciate a treat and are resourceful if you aren’t able to feed the whole winter. You can even add sunflower seeds, dry unsugared cereal, ‘buggy’ oatmeal and castoffs from popcorn as extra goodies in a flat feeder where it won’t get wet.

For those with more than the average commitment a live nativity can be a touch of Christmas present. A doll can represent the baby, with a few sheep and a donkey and cow tethered as well as the people. Creative types might combine tradition with technology for a modern Christmas scene.

These are just a few ways that can spread the Christmas decorating while not resulting in high fees on your power bill. Energy efficient Christmas decorations need not be expensive or dull!