Pull Up a Chair: Getting Ready for Cold

It’s almost Hallowe’en – do you feel ready for winter?

NOAA National Weather Service just released their ‘through January’ predictions, and though here in the Northeast we seem to be getting off easy through the end of the year, the ‘Polar Vortex’ is slated to dip way down into the US in January and February, bringing our temperatures way down.

Just like last year (oh, yes – this is where I say, “Climate change is a hoax’).

And if you’ve been putting off getting ready (and no matter where you live, cold, is cold – even if cold for you is 35 degrees F), well, now is as good a time to start the sorts of things that can be accomplished in the next 6 weeks or so.

Top priority: Sealing up the housing envelop while the temperatures are still above 50 degrees. The most important thing you can do to save energy and stay warm in the winter is to seal up any holes in the housing envelop.  Other stuff can be done once things get colder, but if you want to caulk outside surfaces, you need temperatures above 50 degrees F. in order for the caulk (and use silicone folks) to cure. Caulk around all windows and doors which open to the outside, both inside and outside. If you have a basement, caulk between where the foundation meets the sills. If you own a home that is more than one floor you’ll be pulling out a ladder to take care of any windows on the second floor, so while you are up there, clean out the gutters (you get two-fer points for that).

But what if you don’t live in a home – you live in an apartment. What can you do? Well, your issues are more limited – and your options are more limited as well since as a renter, you can’t make any real physical changes to the infrastructure itself. Shrink-plastic window and door kits are your friend, window kits.  My experience with these is that as long as you can get them firmly fixed around the window frames themselves, you can get a good tight seal and keep a lot of cold air out – and keep warm air in.

Next: Adding insulation if you can. (more…)

Pull Up a Chair: Getting Ready for Cold

It’s almost Hallowe’en – do you feel ready for winter?

NOAA National Weather Service just released their ‘through January’ predictions, and though here in the Northeast we seem to be getting off easy through the end of the year, the ‘Polar Vortex’ is slated to dip way down into the US in January and February, bringing our temperatures way down.

Just like last year (oh, yes – this is where I say, “Climate change is a hoax’).

And if you’ve been putting off getting ready (and no matter where you live, cold, is cold – even if cold for you is 35 degrees F), well, now is as good a time to start the sorts of things that can be accomplished in the next 6 weeks or so.

Top priority: Sealing up the housing envelop while the temperatures are still above 50 degrees. The most important thing you can do to save energy and stay warm in the winter is to seal up any holes in the housing envelop.  Other stuff can be done once things get colder, but if you want to caulk outside surfaces, you need temperatures above 50 degrees F. in order for the caulk (and use silicone folks) to cure. Caulk around all windows and doors which open to the outside, both inside and outside. If you have a basement, caulk between where the foundation meets the sills. If you own a home that is more than one floor you’ll be pulling out a ladder to take care of any windows on the second floor, so while you are up there, clean out the gutters (you get two-fer points for that).

But what if you don’t live in a home – you live in an apartment. What can you do? Well, your issues are more limited – and your options are more limited as well since as a renter, you can’t make any real physical changes to the infrastructure itself. Shrink-plastic window and door kits are your friend, window kits.  My experience with these is that as long as you can get them firmly fixed around the window frames themselves, you can get a good tight seal and keep a lot of cold air out – and keep warm air in.

Next: Adding insulation if you can. Now this point of the year is a time when it’s actually better to be doing insulation jobs because it’s not as hot, so rolling out those batts in the attic is not as sticky and annoying as would be in August. (more…)

New FDA Guidelines on Livestock Antibiotic Use. A Big Deal or Not?

Earlier this week, there was a lot of excitement (nay, elation) expressed over the new guidelines from the FDA on antibiotic use in production livestock situations (i.e., factory farms). It sounded like a huge thing. It sounded as if finally, the FDA was going to do something which would end up cleaning up the dynamic on large-scale factory farms so that regular usage of low dose antibiotics would be eliminated (and frankly, this is way after the horse, ahem, has long left the barn in terms of antibiotic-resistant bacteria being out in the population, but hey, what the heck).

As usual, it’s the details. It’s the ‘I did not have sex with that woman’ thing.

It’s all about antibiotic usage in feeds… to promote growth.

Know what portion of the antibiotics in animal feeds (and a huge proportion of antibiotics in this country are used in animal feeds, by the way)?

“… the amount of antibiotics used for growth promotion is minimal, explains Ron Phillips of the industry group Animal Health Institute. “Many people believe that all or most antibiotic use is for growth promotion,” says Phillips. “That is not the case. We estimate only 10-15 percent at best.” FDA Rules Won’t Reduce Antibiotic Use On Farms

The other thing is this: These are just ‘guidelines’ and are ‘voluntary’. Hello? So, the concept of public health benefit coming out of this (i.e., as in countries such as Denmark, where the general use of antibiotics in livestock feed and water is forbidden, though if an animal has a raging infection, a vet is allowed to Rx a specific dose of a specific antibiotic for a specific animal, that is allowed. And, Denmark has a far smaller rate of antibiotic-resistant infections than we do) is basically nil. More issues on the new FDA antibiotic rules

But… it sounds good. This situation is not going to get any better until ALL antibiotics are taken out of livestock feeds and water, period, AND the general availability of antibiotics in farm supply stores like Tractor Supply (which has a refrigerator in every store with no lock on it, which is filled with large bottles of injectable antibiotics) is eliminated. Is that going to happen? I doubt it.’ (more…)

New FDA Guidelines on Livestock Antibiotic Use: A Big Deal or Not?

Earlier this week, there was a lot of excitement (nay, elation) expressed over the new guidelines from the FDA on antibiotic use in production livestock situations (i.e., factory farms). It sounded like a huge thing. It sounded as if finally, the FDA was going to do something which would end up cleaning up the dynamic on large-scale factory farms so that regular usage of low dose antibiotics would be eliminated (and frankly, this is way after the horse, ahem, has long left the barn in terms of antibiotic-resistant bacteria being out in the population, but hey, what the heck).

As usual, it’s the details. It’s the ‘I did not have sex with that woman’ thing.

It’s all about antibiotic usage in feeds … to promote growth.

Know what portion of the antibiotics in animal feeds (and a huge proportion of antibiotics in this country are used in animal feeds, by the way)?

“… the amount of antibiotics used for growth promotion is minimal, explains Ron Phillips of the industry group Animal Health Institute. “Many people believe that all or most antibiotic use is for growth promotion,” says Phillips. “That is not the case. We estimate only 10-15 percent at best.” FDA Rules Won’t Reduce Antibiotic Use On Farms

The other thing is this: These are just ‘guidelines’ and are ‘voluntary’. Hello? So, the concept of public health benefit coming out of this — as in countries such as Denmark, where the general use of antibiotics in livestock feed and water is forbidden, though if an animal has a raging infection, a vet is allowed to Rx a specific dose of a specific antibiotic for a specific animal (and, Denmark has a far smaller rate of antibiotic-resistant infections than we do) — is basically nil. More issues on the new FDA antibiotic rules

But … it sounds good. This situation is not going to get any better until ALL antibiotics are taken out of livestock feeds and water, period, AND the general availability of antibiotics in farm supply stores like Tractor Supply (which has a refrigerator in every store with no lock on it, which is filled with large bottles of injectable antibiotics) is eliminated. Is that going to happen? I doubt it. (more…)

Livestock Producers Are Causing MRSA – We Now Have Proof

People – get on the horn, email, tweet, whatever to your Congress Critters and Senators about this:
“The groundbreaking study was conducted by genetics researchers who analyzed the genomes of MRSA bacteria from patients and their farm animals, and found the samples to be genetically identical. Published on Tuesday in EMBO Molecular Medicine, the study confirms animal-to-human transmission of MRSA.

Study confirms MRSA transmission from livestock to humans

Here’s the link to the EMBO study results: Animal to human Transmission of MRSA

Louise Slaughter (who represents the Rochester area of Upstate NY) has put forward strong legislation to basically shut down the routine and uncontrolled use of antibiotics in livestock food and water which is causing this. Please take the time to read her release AND the legislation (HR 1150), which contains the history of knowledge of livestock antibiotic use in livestock and the promotion of resistant bacteria.

HR 1150

I leave you with one piece of information which will literally make you ill (because it did me): The USDA ALREADY had study results showing that this routine low-level use of antibiotics in livestock feeds and water would cause the development of reservoirs of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. IN 1977.

In 1977, people. And they did nothing. (more…)

Livestock producers are causing MRSA – We now have proof

People – get on the horn, email, tweet, whatever to your Congress Critters and Senators about this:
“The groundbreaking study was conducted by genetics researchers who analyzed the genomes of MRSA bacteria from patients and their farm animals, and found the samples to be genetically identical. Published on Tuesday in EMBO Molecular Medicine, the study confirms animal-to-human transmission of MRSA.

Study confirms MRSA transmission from livestock to humans

Here’s the link to the EMBO study results: Animal to human Transmission of MRSA

Louise Slaughter (who represents the Rochester area of Upstate NY) has put forward strong legislation to basically shut down the routine and uncontrolled use of antibiotics in livestock food and water which is causing this. Please take the time to read her release AND the legislation (HR 1150), which contains the history of knowledge of livestock antibiotic use in livestock and the promotion of resistant bacteria.

HR 1150

I leave you with one piece of information which will literally make you ill (because it did me): The USDA ALREADY had study results showing that this routine low-level use of antibiotics in livestock feeds and water would cause the development of reservoirs of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. IN 1977.

In 1977, people. And they did nothing. (more…)

OK, all you women at the top: Zip it. Right NOW.

Kathryn Weymouth, heir

OK…so we now have another in yet a seemingly endless stream of women from elite backgrounds, who are playing at the top of their respective games, who are telling other women a) how to live their home and work lives, and b) that they are not trying hard enough. This one is from Katharine Weymouth, who is the publisher and chief executive of The Washington Post.

“I see it all the time. Women are often meeker in meetings and afraid to ask for raises and promotions. I’ve told countless female colleagues to stop apologizing when they ask for more. It’s not personal, it’s business.”

Kathy Weymouth Tells You All

As a character played by Sean Connery in “The Untouchables” said (numerous times throughout the film), “What are YOU prepared to do?”

Ms Weymouth, if you, as CEO of the newspaper have not put any programs into place to help women, THEN YOU HAVE NOTHING TO SAY TO OTHER WOMEN WHO ARE NOT OF THE ELITES. ZIP IT.

Ms Weymouth, if you, as CEO of the newspaper, have not put any programs into place to help people who have dependents for whom they must care, THEN YOU HAVE NOTHING TO SAY; ZIP IT.

Ms Weymouth, if you, as CEO of the newspaper, have not put any programs into place to help people who do not come from money, who do not come from the elites, who do not come from elite college and university educations, to get opportunities to rise, to get educations, to get out of the ‘non-elite ghetto’, THEN YOU HAVE NOTHING TO SAY; ZIP IT.

We have had at least 30 years of this sort of ‘you aren’t trying hard enough,’ ‘you aren’t dressing correctly,’ ‘you aren’t sacrificing enough,’ ‘if only you would….’ garbage out there. Women have it hard enough just on the basis of gender. If we try to work in male-dominated fields such as high tech or programming, we are looking to end up with violent threats in our emails, along with the usual garbage comments about how we dress, how much we weigh, and how we look. The media is filled with images and stories which send one message: Women are never smart enough, attractive enough, good looking enough, thin enough, hard working enough, aggressive enough, not aggressive enough.

It is no wonder that smart young women decide that none of this…is worth it.

OK, all you women at the top: Zip it. Right NOW.

Kathryn Weymouth, heir

OK…so we now have another in yet a seemingly endless stream of women from elite backgrounds, who are playing at the top of their respective games, who are telling other women a) how to live their home and work lives, and b) that they are not trying hard enough. This one is from Katharine Weymouth, who is the publisher and chief executive of The Washington Post.

“I see it all the time. Women are often meeker in meetings and afraid to ask for raises and promotions. I’ve told countless female colleagues to stop apologizing when they ask for more. It’s not personal, it’s business.”

Kathy Weymouth Tells You All

As a character played by Sean Connery in “The Untouchables” said (numerous times throughout the film), “What are YOU prepared to do?”

Ms Weymouth, if you, as CEO of the newspaper have not put any programs into place to help women, THEN YOU HAVE NOTHING TO SAY TO OTHER WOMEN WHO ARE NOT OF THE ELITES. ZIP IT.

Ms Weymouth, if you, as CEO of the newspaper, have not put any programs into place to help people who have dependents for whom they must care, THEN YOU HAVE NOTHING TO SAY; ZIP IT.

Ms Weymouth, if you, as CEO of the newspaper, have not put any programs into place to help people who do not come from money, who do not come from the elites, who do not come from elite college and university educations, to get opportunities to rise, to get educations, to get out of the ‘non-elite ghetto’, THEN YOU HAVE NOTHING TO SAY; ZIP IT.

We have had at least 30 years of this sort of ‘you aren’t trying hard enough,’ ‘you aren’t dressing correctly,’ ‘you aren’t sacrificing enough,’ ‘if only you would….’ garbage out there. Women have it hard enough just on the basis of gender. If we try to work in male-dominated fields such as high tech or programming, we are looking to end up with violent threats in our emails, along with the usual garbage comments about how we dress, how much we weigh, and how we look. The media is filled with images and stories which send one message: Women are never smart enough, attractive enough, good looking enough, thin enough, hard working enough, aggressive enough, not aggressive enough.

It is no wonder that smart young women decide that none of this…is worth it. (more…)

Pull Up a Chair: Where Does the Shade Go?

Something which, even after 35 years plus of gardening together, the DH and I are still fine tuning is the issue of where to put stuff to grow, keeping in mind the path of the sun versus the orientation of our garden beds. In the picture above, taken this morning at about 11:30, you see your dear Aunty, standing outside (in the rather windy 16 degrees F, I might add – the things I do for you guys..) in one of the garden beds, in the snow, holding up a door.

Now, if you look at the shadow, flaring off toward the bottom center of the photograph, you will be reminded of the fact that this is mid-February and at 11:30 a.m., the sun is actually rather low in the sky. If this were May or June, by 11:30 a.m., that sun would be pretty close to right over my head (and I would not be standing out in the garden wearing my heavy coat, hat and gloves, either). My pose is not a re-enactment of Horace Greeley’s famous phrase (and I am pointing rather Northwest rather than directly west); I am pointing in the direction of the path of the sun in the summer. Because of the way our property is situated and the orientation of the garden beds, we get a rather oblique angle on the sun’s path here.

But this is merely an introduction to the issue of the door (what other insane person would stand out in the winter with a door to demonstrate this? I ask you). This is NOT a door (well, actually it IS a door). This is, you will have to imagine, a row of sunflowers, or corn, or something else rather tall. And all of which begins it’s life as a row of something rather short but which becomes something extremely tall and dense before half the summer is over. It literally becomes something LIKE a door. Dense, dark, and solid.

And which casts an extremely wide and long shadow over anything that is planted to either side of it.

Last summer, in one of those last moment fits of gardening madness, the DH decided he wanted to put sunflowers into the garden. Because we’d already planted nearly every other bed, we were left with one of the beds at the eastern end of the arrangement. To say those sunflowers dominated that garden last year is to put it mildly. On one side of the sunflowers was a brand new bed we put in last year which had tomatoes in it. Once the day was past noon, those tomatoes were basically trying to grow in the dark. Disaster. The plants crouched on the ground as if waiting to be attacked. It was like we were re-playing “Day of the Triffids” in the garden. On the other side of the sunflowers were potatoes and some cabbage family plants, which suffered in the early morning (when the sun is not terribly effective in any case up here), but which ended up doing fine because they had all the sun from noon through 8:30 when the sun dropped down behind the hill. That end of the garden did..just..fine.

So, lesson learned.

First: plan out your garden on paper. Depending on the path of the sun at YOUR house (and all other forms of shade from trees, out buildings and so on), put the tall things where they will cast their shade at the end of the day. In our case, if the DH wants to grow corn or sunflowers again, we will reserve the farthest west garden bed for him. And we will mulch and compost accordingly because corn is very greedy in that way.

Second: Start the planting according to the path of the sun — that is, plant the beds or side closest to where the sun comes up, and move in the direction of the path of the sun as it moves through the day. That way, you will end up at the end that if you want to put something tall in, or change your mind, or discover something else that is tall that you want to do (climbing beans, cucumbers on a trellis, etc.), you’ll be able to do that without shading out anything else.

Third: Stick with the plan. I cannot tell you how many times we have ended up sticking odd stuff in little out of the way spots because someone decided “Oh, joy – I have a wizard idea – let’s plant this!!” Think the whole thing through – now is as good a time as any – and stick to the plan. Much better in the long run.

Pull Up a Chair: Where Does the Shade Go?

Something which, even after 35 years plus of gardening together, the DH and I are still fine tuning is the issue of where to put stuff to grow, keeping in mind the path of the sun versus the orientation of our garden beds. In the picture above, taken this morning at about 11:30, you see your dear Aunty, standing outside (in the rather windy 16 degrees F, I might add – the things I do for you guys..) in one of the garden beds, in the snow, holding up a door.

Now, if you look at the shadow, flaring off toward the bottom center of the photograph, you will be reminded of the fact that this is mid-February and at 11:30 a.m., the sun is actually rather low in the sky. If this were May or June, by 11:30 a.m., that sun would be pretty close to right over my head (and I would not be standing out in the garden wearing my heavy coat, hat and gloves, either). My pose is not a re-enactment of Horace Greeley’s famous phrase (and I am pointing rather Northwest rather than directly west); I am pointing in the direction of the path of the sun in the summer. Because of the way our property is situated and the orientation of the garden beds, we get a rather oblique angle on the sun’s path here.

But this is merely an introduction to the issue of the door (what other insane person would stand out in the winter with a door to demonstrate this? I ask you). This is NOT a door (well, actually it IS a door). This is, you will have to imagine, a row of sunflowers, or corn, or something else rather tall. And all of which begins it’s life as a row of something rather short but which becomes something extremely tall and dense before half the summer is over. It literally becomes something LIKE a door. Dense, dark, and solid.

And which casts an extremely wide and long shadow over anything that is planted to either side of it.

Last summer, in one of those last moment fits of gardening madness, the DH decided he wanted to put sunflowers into the garden. Because we’d already planted nearly every other bed, we were left with one of the beds at the eastern end of the arrangement. To say those sunflowers dominated that garden last year is to put it mildly. On one side of the sunflowers was a brand new bed we put in last year which had tomatoes in it. Once the day was past noon, those tomatoes were basically trying to grow in the dark. Disaster. The plants crouched on the ground as if waiting to be attacked. It was like we were re-playing “Day of the Triffids” in the garden. On the other side of the sunflowers were potatoes and some cabbage family plants, which suffered in the early morning (when the sun is not terribly effective in any case up here), but which ended up doing fine because they had all the sun from noon through 8:30 when the sun dropped down behind the hill. That end of the garden did..just..fine.

So, lesson learned.

First: plan out your garden on paper. Depending on the path of the sun at YOUR house (and all other forms of shade from trees, out buildings and so on), put the tall things where they will cast their shade at the end of the day. In our case, if the DH wants to grow corn or sunflowers again, we will reserve the farthest west garden bed for him. And we will mulch and compost accordingly because corn is very greedy in that way.

Second: Start the planting according to the path of the sun — that is, plant the beds or side closest to where the sun comes up, and move in the direction of the path of the sun as it moves through the day. That way, you will end up at the end that if you want to put something tall in, or change your mind, or discover something else that is tall that you want to do (climbing beans, cucumbers on a trellis, etc.), you’ll be able to do that without shading out anything else.

Third: Stick with the plan. I cannot tell you how many times we have ended up sticking odd stuff in little out of the way spots because someone decided “Oh, joy – I have a wizard idea – let’s plant this!!” Think the whole thing through – now is as good a time as any – and stick to the plan. Much better in the long run.