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Off To College; Apartment Living

August 19, 2013

PArk-City-Last-Day-006-1024x768Soon, many young adults will be moving into off-campus housing for the upcoming semester.  Many are making that trip without their parents; loading everything into their car and heading off.  Wow; big, exciting changes for the student as well as the family left at home.  I don’t think it makes you a “helicopter parent” to make sure they are living in a fire-safe environment. It’s simply a part of educating your student to what they need to do to stay safe during the school year.

Send them off with a list of phone numbers, preferably laminated, to post on their refrigerator.  Include both the emergency and non-emergency number for the fire and police departments. 911 is the universal emergency phone number in all US states.  Include the phone number of the landlord or property management firm for the apartment.  Include the 911 address of the apartment.  In an emergency, it’s a good idea to have that information available to read; no one knows how they will react in an emergency – answering even simple questions could be difficult.

I know the car is full, but send them off with an ABC fire extinguisher, or better yet, two.  One for their bedroom, one for the kitchen.  ABC means they work on 3 classes of fire; A = combustible materials like paper or wood. B = flammable liquids like gasoline or oil. C = electrical.   Make sure they know to call 911 first, before attempting to put out any fire.  It needs to be a small, contained fire to use an extinguisher. Do they know how to use a fire extinguisher?

  • P – pull the pin
  • A – aim at the base of the fire, not the flame
  • S – squeeze the lever
  • S – sweep from side-to-side

Checking the fire alarms and carbon monoxide monitors is probably not going to be high on their priority list.  On that call home, when they tell you they’ve arrived safely and are all moved in, ask them about the fire alarms and CO monitors.

  • Has she/he tested them?
  • Is there a smoke alarm for every bedroom, outside the sleeping area, and on every level?
  • Are they all interconnected, so when one sounds, they all sound?

Click here for Smoke Detectors and CO monitor regulations, by state.

If there are no detectors, or they are outdated (have no date of manufacture or are more than 10 years old), or are not functioning correctly, that is not acceptable.

If your child is a smoker, or has friends that smoke, encourage them to smoke only outside, and use sturdy, deep, non-tip ashtrays.  Many think a can or disposable cup makes a great ashtray – encourage them to have water in the bottom to extinguish the ashes.

The ambiance of candles is great, but they are so dangerous; they’re an open flame with lots of fuel.  Candles need to be placed in sturdy candle holders and placed no less than 12″ from anything that can burn (including >12″ from the maximum that the curtains can move).  Candles must be blown out whenever they leave the room or go to bed.

I hope your child has a healthy, safe and wonderful semester while you get used to that empty nest!


Wonderful Weather for a Trim!

July 22, 2013


Yesterday when I woke up, the house was almost chilly!  The high temperature for the day was 25 degrees cooler than Friday, with much lower humidity and a stiff breeze.  Perfect weather for working in the yard and gardens.  I slathered on the sunscreen, donned my sunglasses and dorky sun hat with the long tail in back to protect my neck, and headed outside.  The front gardens and lilacs needed work; I’ve been avoiding them for too long.  I got out my rubber kneeling pad, wheelbarrow, anvil and bypass pruners, bow saw and work gloves and headed to the front lawn, followed by my trusty companion, Kade.

I quickly found that the mosquitoes were enjoying the weather as well; they were ferocious!  Back inside I went for bug dope.  My hat may be dorky, but spraying bug dope on it works; I don’t have to put the chemicals in my hair or on my face and neck!

It didn’t take long to find that my pruners were dull.  It took a very few passes with the sharpener and I was back in business.  What a difference sharpening makes!!

I subscribe to the theory that the only difference between a bad haircut and a good haircut is about a week, and feel this translates well to pruning.  Truthfully, at first I was a bit conservative, but Husband was tedding hay; now was my chance to work without a critic telling me “enough”!  I asked Kade if it looked alright, and she smiled back at me (she’s a Norwegian Elkhound, she always looks like she’s smiling!) so I kept going.  The more I trimmed the lilacs, the better she liked it; she loved being able to get under them, into the shade as I took out the low-hanging branches.  Some branches were touching the house; they’re gone now….  (I googled ‘pruning lilacs’; it should have been done right after blossoming.  Ooops……)

Am I done yet?  No, I need to get into the bushes and thin out the suckers; Hubby came home and was okay with what I’d done, but didn’t want me to do any more.  Thinning will happen another day; I just have to give him a week to get used to this “haircut”!

gailinvt | July 22, 2013 at 10:27 am | Categories: Staff | URL:

A Rash of Farm Accidents

July 8, 2013

Guest written by Bill Snow, VT AgrAbility Project

Why would 3 farm accidents occur in the same week, within 20 miles of each other?

The three accidents are as follows:

  1. Farmer A uses the same routine every day to put a round bale of hay into the feeder, after his wife opens the metal gate for the tractor to pass through. This day, he’s in a hurry and uses a different approach, hitting his wife’s hand with the loader. Result: wife suffers several broken bones in her hand, requiring surgery.
  2. While round baling on a hillside, Farmer B sees the bale start rolling down the hill. He jumps off the tractor to get it. The hired man sees that the brake was not set; the tractor and baler are rolling down the hill. The hired man gets the farmer’s attention; the farmer tries to hop on the tractor, but is run over and taken to the hospital.
  3. Farmer C has a flat tire on his hay wagon. While working to remove the tire from the rim, the heavy hammer bounces back and hits him near his eye.

I am also aware of a fourth accident recently, though not in the same week as the first three: Farmer D’s son has just returned to work after a month of recuperation. He too got off the tractor without setting the brake; it rolled backwards over him.

Why is this happening?

We had very dry and even dusty conditions in the beginning of May.  It then started raining and hasn’t stopped! May was the wettest on record, and June was within a whisker (0.06″) of being the wettest.

Some farmers have not completed their corn planting and may not do so. Many farmers have been unable to complete their first cutting of hay. Some crops have been lost. Many fields have standing water in them. The crops just don’t look good. It basically rains every day, and flooding occurs often.

Some farmers are depressed, frustrated and worried about having feed for the winter. When the sun shines and they are able to get on the land, the pressure will be on to get as much done as quickly as possible. This pressure makes people take short cuts and take more risks. As one farmer said to me yesterday: “Yes, I was in such a hurry I almost jumped over a running PTO…….I caught myself and said ‘that was a stupid thought'”!

During difficult harvest times you have to be extra-vigilant to be safe. Your life is worth it.

ULSD…Not Your Same Old Diesel Fuel

July 1, 2013

explosion-symbolAt one time, diesel fuel had about 5000 ppm sulfur; then came Low Sulfur Diesel at 500 ppm sulfur.  Today’s Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel is 15 ppm.  ULSD is now the only diesel fuel available in North America; other countries are following our lead.  ULSD plus cleaner-burning diesel engines helps to improve air quality by significantly reducing emissions.

By removing the sulfur and other compounds in Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel, its conductivity is decreased and its ability to store a static charge increases.  Refineries have added a static-dissipating additive, but its effectiveness is reduced over time and by passing through filters as it makes its way to your fuel storage tank.  Static charges can build up as the fuel flows though the fuel delivery system.  Diesel fuel is not as combustible as gasoline, but it is combustible. There is the potential for a fire or explosion while fueling your equipment.  Any fire or explosion would cause flaming fuel to come back out the filler neck onto the person fueling the equipment.  This has happened, with tragic results.

It is important to make sure that the entire system used to refuel your equipment (fuel supply tank, transfer pump, transfer hose, nozzle and others) is properly grounded and bonded.

A properly grounded fuel delivery system has an electrically conductive connection from the fuel delivery tank system to earth ground to allow static and electrical charge dissipation. Your truck, with its rubber tires, is pretty well grounded.  Do you have a bed liner in your pickup truck?  If you answered yes, then that fuel tank in the bed of your truck is NOT GROUNDED.  It needs to be bolted directly to the truck to be grounded.

A properly bonded fuel delivery system has an electrically conductive and unbroken connection between all components. A wire connection from the the fuel delivery system to the equipment chassis will equalize the static electric potential between the two machines, reducing the chance of a static electric discharge.  You probably have jumper cables in your truck – they’ll suffice for bonding.

Stay put while refueling the equipment.  If you’re walking around, you could be building a static charge; touch the body of the truck to dissipate any static build up before touching the fueling system.

If you are unsure about how well your system is grounded or have questions about bonding, contact your fuel supplier and have them check your system.

Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel is here, now.  It has dangers its predecessors didn’t. We all need to learn how to handle it safely. Once this rain ends and we are able to be working in the fields again, we’ll all be rushing to catch up.  Don’t take any shortcuts to bonding and grounding while refueling to save time; it could be deadly.

When the Sun Shines…….

June 13, 2013

Sunny Day

Wow, has it been a wet, difficult spring.  Much new seeding has washed out in places, there is standing water in almost all fields. The hay fields are saturated; taking any equipment into them to hay will cause ruts, tractors will get stuck…it’s a mess. Another very challenging year for our farmers.

Today, the sun is shining! Hooray! We need a stretch of good weather, let’s hope Mother Nature cooperates.  Now that we can be out in the sun, I’m going to remind you how to protect your skin from sun damage.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US; one in five of us are expected to develop a form of skin cancer in our lifetime.  I don’t think those are very good odds. There are simple ways to reduce your risk.  The easiest way is to keep your skin covered with clothes; long sleeves, long pants, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, shoes, socks…..

Okay, it’s often too hot to wear the long sleeves and pants.  Do wear the wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, though.  Besides the sun protection they provide, the hat will keep you cooler and the sunglasses make being in the sun more comfortable.  Besides, the squinting without sunglasses causes wrinkles, and who needs more of those?!

Apply sunscreen every day when you are going to be outside, reapplying every 2 hours to any skin that is not covered with clothing. Use a water-resistant sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, that has a SPF of at least 30.  Is that sunscreen more than 3 years old? Replace it.

Use enough sunscreen; at least one ounce. Rub it in well.

Seek shade.  The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 AM and 2 PM; if your shadow is shorter than you are, try to stay out of the sun.

Are you near water, sand or snow? they reflect and intensify the damaging rays of the sun.

Don’t use the excuse of not protecting yourself from the sun because you are seeking vitamin D….get that through food.  Salmon, mackerel, sardines, many fish and seafood varieties as well as dried shiitake mushrooms and eggs naturally have high levels of Vitamin D.  Milk and some cereals are fortified with Vitamin D. 

Check your skin for signs of skin cancer.  Knowing your moles, watching for changes is key to detecting skin cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages.

Go to the website of the American Academy of Dermatology, under resources, learn how to perform a skin self-exam and download their Body Mole Map for tracking changes in your skin.

Enjoy this wonderful sunshine, but do take care of your skin and, to paraphrase Smokey the Bear; only you can prevent skin cancer.



Remember to “Spring Ahead” One Hour on Sunday!

March 8, 2013


Remember to “spring ahead” and change the clocks on Sunday, March 10.  It’s also time to make sure to change the batteries in all of your smoke alarms. Even with replacing the batteries, it’s still very important to conduct your monthly test of your smoke alarms. It could save a life!

Did you know that having a working smoke alarm reduces a person’s chance of dying in a fire by half?

For the best protection, install smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside every sleeping area, and in every bedroom. Smoke alarms should be mounted high on walls or ceilings and tested monthly.

It’s important to replace smoke alarm batteries at least once a year, unless they’re 10-year lithium batteries. If your smoke alarms are hard-wired, they still have batteries in case of a power outage; replace the batteries.

Smoke alarms sensors do not last forever. The maximum life span is 8-10 years. After that time, the entire unit should be replaced. Check the manufacture date on the back of the unit.  If there is no manufacture date, definitely replace the entire unit NOW.  If the unit does not respond properly when tested, it needs to be replaced immediately. Consider replacing your smoke alarms with the combination smoke and Carbon Monoxide alarms.

Springing forward one hour also means it will be darker later in the morning.  Sun-up in my part of Vermont isn’t until 7:10 AM on Monday.  It will not be full light until sometime later.  At this time of day, many children are out waiting for the bus; please be extra careful on your commute.

The weather in Vermont is supposed to be wonderful this weekend; looks like perfect sugaring weather; I may just have to get some sugar-on-snow………………..Enjoy your weekend!

A Carbon Monoxide Death in Vermont

March 1, 2013

This week we had a Carbon Monoxide death; a 17-year-old man lost his life. Remembering Logan Newell at a candlelight vigil, the group was encouraged to share memories. “He loved everybody so much. He was always the one to say ‘Hey bud, I love you – because he did.” There were stories about his sense of humor, his generosity, his loyalty and his mischief. He was a hard worker, he loved barbecue and he loved to work on his car. Logan’s mother told the crowd: “Let everyone say you love each other right before you go to bed.”

Logan Newell had been snowboarding with a friend. His friend dropped him off at the Park and Ride, and was the last one to see him alive. Logan was found unresponsive at the Park and Ride; it’s speculated that he was letting his car warm up when he succumbed.  He had an exhaust leak in his 2002 VW Jetta, which was allowing Carbon Monoxide to leak into the passenger compartment. He knew he had an exhaust leak.  He had made plans to fix it this weekend.  This weekend will never come for Logan.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless poisonous gas. It is a byproduct of combustion, so is found in the exhaust system of cars. In cold weather, the CO emissions in cars rises dramatically since it takes more fuel to start in the cold and some emission control devices don’t work as well in the cold.  Symptoms of CO poisoning – drowsiness, fatigue and slight nausea are not alarming – that’s why it’s sometimes called the silent killer.

This got me thinking about all the old “beater” cars out there. They’re inexpensive to buy, for some they’re an exciting challenge to fix up. An exhaust leak can happen in any car, but I expect that older cars are more susceptible to having it leak into the passenger area. How can we keep this tragedy from repeating itself?