Prepare for Cold Weather Travel

Winter_Coats_On_The_BoardwalkProper preparation for the cold can greatly make for more comfort when you travel to cold places. Whether you are traveling for a winter vacation, business or any other reason clothes for cold weather can make a big difference. Here are some packing tips to get you started.

Think layers. You’ll want a layer that wicks moisture away from your body – this need not be a thick layer to be effective but should be able to move moisture from your skin. This is important because moisture leads to dampness leads to being cold and wet! It’s also important that these shirts be not too baggy but not too tight. A little bit of air helps you stay warmer.

On top of this is another insulated layer. If you are going in extreme cold long underwear and undershirt should also be part of the packing process. Natural fibers – cotton and wool – are a bonus. Remember with the bottom layer (or two) the wool won’t be against your skin, but still effectively protects from the cold.

Be prepared. The thing about layers is you can take a layer or two off if you end up inside for a while, such as an airport or stopping at a restaurant for a meal. As it gets colder put those layers back on.

Top layer for outdoor is a good quality coat. This need not be a fancy name brand but get something warm and water resistant. If your layers get wet then your planning and packing is for nothing.

Socks that are thick enough to protect your feet and keep them warm are also important. In colder weather also have a hat and scarf. An incredible amount of heat escapes via our head and neck – if we keep those covered we conserve heat.

Long pants are important. This means denim, or if you can’t wear that pick corduroy. Forget dresses, skirts and think slick lightweight pants. Along with it if there is likely to be ice or snow. Forget heels and shoes with slick bottoms – this is not just for fashion but for comfort and safety! Use good quality footwear – even hiking boots are better than dress shoes.

How many layers you’ll need depends on how cold it gets and what your comfort level is but be sure to choose clothing that is comfortable and layer it well. This need not be expensive clothing if chosen well.

Cabela’s has complete layering sets available with wool, fleece and Merino wool that allows you to look good and be warm. Although much of their line is designed for hunters (and therefore camouflage is prominent) there are many colors and styles available once you understand the principles of layering, and many of the selections you may have in your wardrobe now.

Cold weather clothing is also easily found online among stores that cater to people who need it – hunters, farmers, military, emergency workers and others. Your own comfort zone will help dictate choices.

Be comfortable and remember layers to maximize warmth. You don’t need a parka that makes you look like a snowman unless you are going in cold weather for a considerable amount of time. however, another thing to keep in mind in cold weather areas is being prepared. This can keep you alive if the unexpected happens.

Layers of comfortable clothing give you maximum warmth. Use that as your guide along with your own comfort (do you get cold easily?) and the temperature where you’re going or going through. Stay warm, stay comfortable, stay safe!

 

Did you know – A well known wildlife photographer once made the point that cold weather and poor preparation kills more people in Alaska than grizzly bears.

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How to Make Goat Milk Soaps

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen you have an abundance of goat’s milk and you use it for drinking, cheese, ice cream and every recipe you can find that has milk it’s natural to want to find other ways to use it. With heavy milking Toggenburgs, Alpines, Saanens and recorded grades there was plenty of milk and soaps were a natural extension to make and sell.

Goat’s milk soaps have been credited with clearing skin conditions and milk soaps as a rule are gentler than those with harsh chemicals. Making goats milk soaps is not difficult but it is exacting.

You will need to gather supplies. These include a large stainless steel kettle for mixing the soap. Make sure this is stainless steel rather than aluminum or other materials as it not only has to stand the heat but the caustic nature of the lye reacting to make soap. A stainless steel spoon helps as well as a stick blender used just for your soap making. A wide variety of molds can be used including plastic containers providing they can handle heat. A couple of candy or meat thermometers are needed also as you’ll need to watch temperatures.

Highly recommended are plastic safety goggles and long sleeves with gloves. Keep pets and small children out of the room or confined when mixing soap for their safety and yours.

You can follow an existing recipe or as you gain experience create your own. An excellent source for soapmakers is http://www.thesage.com/calcs/l as you can plug in your type of lye, liquid, what kind of fats and it calculates how much lye to use for you.

For example to use 12 ounces of corn oil and 36 ounces soybean oil (vegetable oil) it calls for 12-18 ounces of milk and, for the medium range, 6.18 to 5.98 ounces of lye, with the lower range making a softer soap.

Measure the oils into a pan and place on low on the stove, with a thermometer attached to the pan to watch the temperature. While that is heating work on the other half of the equation.

Measure the milk into the pot and add the lye to it. Always add it this way and with milk soaps watch carefully your thermometer. I found better success by placing the pan I’m working in in a sink of cold water. As you add the lye you will find the milk heats up considerablythe cold water outside the pan helps disperse this heat somewhat. By watching the temperature try to keep it less than 140 degreesas it starts to heat up slow down pouring and keep gently stirring.

The reason for this caution is to keep the milk from curdling, a problem some soapmakers have found. By watching the heat and doing it this way I never had a problem with this issue. Once all the lye is added you’ll need to carefully balance things to bring the lye mixture and the oils to the same temperature. I used 100 degrees as my temperature. The important thing is that both are the same temperature.

Once the same temperature is reached add the oils to the lye mixture, stirring constantly. Some soapmakers use a stick blender once the oils are added while others prefer to stir by hand. Be careful not to splash it or allow pets or children to stir it. As you are stirring you are looking for “tracing” which can take more than 15 minutes but with a blender can take less. Look carefully for this which will leave a drop for several seconds or leave a pattern where you have stirred for several seconds. Once this is seen quickly pour into your prepared molds as the soap is soft but can set quickly.

Once in the molds lightly cover and cover with a blanket to regulate temperature. If the soap cools too quickly it can spoil a batch. Carefully check the soap daily to see when it is set soft but firm. If you are using a mold that requires cutting you’ll want to turn it out and cut while it’s firm but not hardened. Once your soap is cut place on a rack out of reach of pets and children to cure or harden.

As you gain experience you can add oatmeal and other things to your soaps after the oils but before tracing begins. Some even add shredded rose petals! The 48 ounce weight can make a dozen cut bars but if you pretty up’ the edges don’t throw away the peelings and pieces. You can make laundry soap and even soft soap also.

Don’t underestimate the danger of lye but don’t be afraid of it either. Treat it with respect and use it carefully. Always add the lye to liquid, not the other way around.

Soap making is a way to use some milk, although not large amounts, but is also one more thing you can produce at home. Milk soaps are not difficult to make.

Heating Without Gas

A while back I was reading a copy of “Out Here”, a magazine put out quarterly by Tractor Supply Co., and it mentioned more than 600,000 homes in North America use wood pellets for heat. I kept reading…then thought about that in perspective.

We have public complaining about reducing demand for gas. We want independence and no relying on gas from other countries. And yet most of the country completely disregards DOING something to actually reduce using gas. We have so many alternatives here – not only passive solar systems but other alternatives. Another issue is the amount of waste – landfills absorbing yard waste and other biodegradable byproducts. Those can be used to reduce fuel consumption.

A couple hundred dollars you can put a solar heating in which uses the sun – free. Even if it raises the temperature just 20 degrees – that’s 20 degrees heated without burning gas. This option is discussed in further detail in the current “Mother Earth News”.

But there’s other options also. Wood pellets are made from sawdust, a “waste” product which otherwise could go to landfills. The basic process is drying the sawdust then compressing it into a pellet at a rate of 21,000 pounds per square inch. The pellets then are bagged and can be used for heating – reducing waste and reducing gas consumption. Pellet stoves have advantages beyond this. There is little ash left because the pellets burn completely. They produce virtually no creosote which is the cause of many chimney fires and a 40 pound bag can heat a home for a day. Instead of a one month $500 bill for gas – this could be your total winter’s supply in pellets!

There are stoves available that have another option still – corn stoves. These can use not only the pellets but when pellets are harder to find you can burn corn. Corn we can produce here in the US on an annual basis…so it further helps farmers by creating a demand for their product, which sometimes is otherwise unused. There is in years of drought a problem with a fungus on corn which prevents it from being used for food or animal food – but doesn’t stop the use of it for fuel.

There are stoves which can burn not only corn and pellets but other “waste” – cherry pits for example. There’s a cost to purchase of the stoves, and it does require electric to run the auger that brings the fuel to the fire…but remember, this is all US GROWN. We can grow corn…we can use waste from flooring and furniture manufacturing (among others) to make wood pellets. We don’t need to buy gas from overseas markets.

Some states have tax incentives for adding alternative energy systems as well as federal incentives.

There is not just stoves available but furnaces that attach on to existing heating ductwork. http://www.ruralenergyproducts.com/ is one of many sites that have both of these options.

Inventive readers of Farm Show magazine – www.farmshow.com – have had featured in the magazine their LARGE heaters which burn as a source of fuel large bales of hay and corn stalks.

With any of these heating system there is some maintenance to do – removing a small amount of ash and the “clinker”. Is it worth cutting costs in half to do this? Is it worth giving a market to our farmers and taking it away from oil companies? If you have room to grow corn your costs are further reduced…most don’t have the capacity to refine oil. This could be a boon to the small farmers trying to compete against major companies…and a means of independence.

We have the technology to improve several issues in the US with one solution – alternative energy produced here at home to heat our homes.

<From the archives>

Did you know?

According to Plunkett Research 41% of the US energy consumption in 2004 was by Petroleum, with an additional 22% and 23% in coal and natural gas respectively. In contrast only 6% used renewable sources.

Is Hunting a Legitimate Sport?

MuleDeerTupperAnselBlakeUSFWSpubicdomainThere are those who claim that we don’t need to hunt animals. Others claim hunting is not a sport because the humans benefit from taking a trophy animal or for meat. If hunting animals is not a sport due to the human benefit then many other activities are not sports also.

There is no reason that people cannot benefit from an activity and still have it considered a sport, much as running benefits health benefits and is considered a sport. There are many more deer hit and killed by cars, randomly without regard to if it is a doe with fawns to support, than a hunter.

There are many views to what is and isn’t sport. Hunting does take activity, preparation, fitness, etc. – much more so than poker for example. NASCAR developed from running moonshine – since we don’t do that anymore should NASCAR be tossed also? Eh while it’s at that point fencing and 3Day and other Olympic sports are no longer viable. The fact is it takes skill to go on a successful hunt.

It takes skill to track an animal and be it a strictly for food kill or one for food and a trophy it is a decision of the hunter as to what to hunt for. Many criticize people don’t eat it and there’s just as many that DO eat it.

I know someone who does hunt for “trophy” animals – he goes out in the wilderness and hunts with a bow, and for every animal he gets he not only passes on MANY but those many are photographed and filmed so others can enjoy them. He bought a large plot of land not to live on but as a protected deer area…where he might take one or two of hundreds that feed on his land…hundreds that have a protected area to eat because of those two. This is a man who hiked three miles into the Alaskan wilderness, with a bow shot a 1600 pound moose, packed every bit of meat as well as the antlers and hide 3 miles back out on backpack. That kind of thing doesn’t happen sitting on a couch watching the outdoor channel and I challenge anyone to match fitness with him in that situation!

If there wasn’t food at the fast food window…would it be ok then to hunt? Everyone I’ve talked to that hunts trophy deer yes gets the taxidermy done – but also uses the meat from those deer! It doesn’t get left in the field. But *if* it did it then feeds other wildlife, perhaps the ones nursing an injury that cannot pull down a meal on their own. We sitting at home instead of in the field don’t see these things.

There is nothing wrong with hunting for meat or for trophy. Using the food makes more sense to me but I’d sure sit down to some venison before a veggie burger – and yes have had both. I’ve had antelope, bison, elk and deer and prepared properly it’s quite tasty. For those who live a mile from the grocery store it’s hard to see or comprehend why everyone doesn’t just buy at the store. For those living 20-30 miles from town or more – and especially those who willingly or not feed the wildlife – there’s no reason a few can’t become dinner, whether they’re “trophy” animals or not.

Over grazing and starving to death is not pleasant – hunting keeps the herds in check. Until you’ve seen 100 head of deer grazing in an alfalfa field (which I did – just west of Peoria IL actually) you cannot fathom the amount they eat even at 10# per head let alone 20-30# per day. That can be a ton or more of feed per day! And if they hit a corn field…well are you willing to go hungry to support 100 head of deer? Even eliminating half of them will not wipe out the population and wildlife management doesn’t eliminate half.

Stay Safe With Home Yard Work

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe home is where we spend much of our lives so it’s little surprise the number of accidents there. As time and money becomes tighter there is sometimes the pressure to save and take shortcuts when working in the yard and around the home. Safety in the home is important but many people do not extend that to the yard. Working in the yard can be a source of many accidents and it’s important to stay safe in the yard.

After a long winter people are eager to get in the yard to work. We want to be the first with flowers blooming or the first to have a tomato picked from the vine. In the eagerness to get into the yard the thought to stay safe is sometimes pushed to the background. This can be a dangerous thing, sometimes fatally so.

All power equipment should be properly maintained. Not only will this help you stay safe in the yard but it also extends the life of your equipment. From the weed eater to the mower make sure that it is in good working order. Clear the yard of sticks, rocks and debris before you mow. Use eye and hearing protection and resist the temptation to crawl on the mower, put the headphones on and crank up the tunes. Not only can you not hear a warning or distress call but you also won’t hear if the motor begins running badly, creating a major repair bill. Keep children and pets out of the work area so that they stay safe also. Don’t leave tools, especially power tools, where they can get to them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother big safety point is dressing appropriately. Shorts, flip flops and minimal clothing are not the way to stay safe from flying debris. Use good shoes or boots, long pants and close fitting clothing that breathes well for yard work. It may be slightly cooler to climb on the mower with shorts but it’s better to alter the time of mowing earlier or later in the day when you can dress safely for the job.

Often times working in the yard means running a power cord for a project. Always use a proper grounded outlet and protect the cord from being run over or damaged. Accidents can happen but a big way to stay safe is to be aware. Know what is going on around you. Use extra caution when using overhead trimmers and pole saws not only to keep the branch from falling on you but also to avoid connection with any overhead lines. Sadly this results in fatalities every year.

Another yard chore than can turn from routine to dangerous is cleaning the gutters or other repairs using a ladder. Yes ladders are expensive but invest in a good quality ladder and use it safely. Always have it on solid ground when working off the ground and do not lean too far over to change the the balance, resulting in a fall. A good ladder might cost you $30-40 more but even if it’s three times that it is cheaper than a trip to the emergency room!

Stay safe also when working around the pool. While some hire pool maintenance to be done others see doing it as part of owning a pool, but work carefully and safely. Don’t allow children or adults to run near the pool. Have the area fenced off from the yard to prevent pets and children from getting in and have a ramp at one end that they are trained to go to if they do get in the pool. This can be a lifesaver.

There are many ways to stay safe throughout the year. Be a safety bug around the yard as well as around the home. Safety is not a game but it can save injury and save a life.

Country Living Means Accepting Responsibility

People move to the country for various reasons – many move to escape something such as crime, traffic, smog or noise pollution. Others move TO something – a perceived better life where they can grow some of their own food. There are advantages and disadvantages to every lifestyle and “homesteading” is no different.

Decide how much rural you want. Not everyone REALLY wants to live with no neighbors…not everyone wants a large property to maintain. Some people a large lot in a small town is enough – while others want the whole package. For many a 2 acre yard is something of pride – for others it’s useless wasted space that could grow food.

Many have the image of an old time small farm – but not the concept of the work that goes into it. On any size – invest in good equipment that you will use. A tractor is of no use if you don’t have a garden, field to till or something to USE it for. If you have a large yard invest in a good reliable riding lawnmower. If you want a small garden consider a larger mower with the power and ability to use three point equipment like tillers, cultivators and blades. If you’re looking at tilling a larger areas, a small tractor would be a better investment. Buy quality equipment – from fencing to gates to power equipment to hand tools – quality isn’t necessarily the most expensive.

Livestock is something many want to do but aren’t prepared for…get fencing and housing ready BEFORE bringing anything home. Research, talk to breeders and find the best way to care for your animals. Having secure fencing, proper housing and equipment will make caring for them much easier and will be much less a chore. How many acres pasture animals need varies widely depending on the part of country – contact the local extension office for recommendations in your area/state.

Some basic recommendations:
POULTRY – Chickens, ducklings, goslings, turkeys and other poultry can be ordered via mail. They’ll need to be kept at 95 degrees for the first week, lowering the temperature 5 degrees per week until feathered. Keep them dry and warm with plenty of food and water. Waterfowl must have fountains just deep enough to submerge their bill.

RABBITS – Need special care in hot climates – when over 85 degrees they need plenty of air circulation and cooling measures. A good quality cage with a feeder and water source that can’t be dumped over.

SHEEP – Good fences needed to keep sheep in and predators (including dogs) out. Sheep can make effective use of small amounts of land, providing grass control as well as spreading manure as they graze. A dry space for shade and staying dry and plenty of water are basics needed. Sheep need lower copper rations so watch the level of copper.

GOATS – Ditto goats except stronger…goats have a bigger tendency to stand on fences. A strand of hot wire discourages this. They are not copper sensitive like sheep. Also goats are more browsers than grazers – many are quite happy to let pastures get a foot or more high.

CATTLE – Again, pasture, a shelter and good fences are basic needs.

Gardens of vegetables, herbs and flowers are another dream for many in the country. Garden catalogs show pictures of overflowing baskets.

Remember in responsibility for your food – you’ll be growing it start to finish. That means freezing, drying, canning – learning to “put up” your own food. You’ll need room to do this, a reliable freezer, a dehydrator and/or canning supplies.

Three Important Tips for Successful Sales

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe economy is tight and people are “picky” in how they spend their money. There are three points that can generate sales even in this situation. Remember sales can be food, books or services – the basics are the same.

Small local businesses can stimulate their own and local economies. Be this small farms or any other business, we must remember it is a BUSINESS! If we treat it as less than a business we won’t have a business for long. Integrity is important in applying these two points. It is basic and seems too easy but is true.

First believe in what you sell. Believing creates enthusiasm and that breeds confidence in the product and that makes sales.

Secondly that confidence from a sales person is often the deciding factor – if two sales people are present and one is confident and knowledgeable while the other is focused on a sale, most people will go with the first. Desperation doesn’t inspire any benefit for the customer.

Third focus on what your item or service does for the customer. If all they’re doing is giving you money it comes across as a scam – they part with money without getting anything back. No one likes that and in tough times many can’t afford that. It builds resentment and that works against you.

Creative people believe in their art but don’t always believe it will benefit the purchaser. Why should someone buy what you’re selling? What benefit will they get from it? It’s important face to face but is also important online. Blogs, social media tools and networking create confidence. Customers SEE through videos

No matter what item is involved make sure it has value to the customer and that you are confident in your item being a solution to what they need.

For farms and other businesses producing life’s necessities this means showing benefits – we all need food but within that is a long list of choices. Show with video. Show on blogs. It’s representing your industry as well as your business.

There are changes in purchasing decisions in times of economic trouble. However, if people want or need something badly enough they will find a way to afford it. For so long that has been justification of payments and debt for the buyer. Honest representation of a product that is of honest benefit to the customer, represented by someone who believes in what they’re selling results in successful sales.