DIY

Hits and misses of DIY projects, both big and small.

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8/26/2014

Fresh basil is on of the easier  things to grow in the garden. From my experience, very few insects are attracted to eat its savory leaves due to its strong flavor. I usually dehydrate enough to fill a bag to use as a spice, but I process most of it into pesto. Fresh pesto is great in the summertime, but it can be even more delicious in the middle of winter when you are ready for something green. 

basil

Here is a list of the ingredients:

1 1/2 cups fresh basil
1/3 cup oil
1 cup pine nuts or walnuts
2 to 3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup Parmesan  cheese - Vegan option: 1/4 cup Nutritional Yeast flakes

Step 1: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Submerge the basil in the boiling water for about 30 seconds.
Another option is to steam the basil leaves, again for 30 seconds. This is called blanching, a process which kills the enzymes that can cause your food to continue to mature, losing flavor and texture, even after the food has been frozen.

Step 2: Immediately remove and place the basil in ice water. This halts the cooking process and ideally will keep your basil and pesto green, preventing it from turning black.

Step 3: Put all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse. You want to keep some texture and avoid turning the mixture into mush, specifically the nuts.

fresh pesto

Place spoonfuls of the pesto into the cube sections of an ice tray and freeze. Remove from the freezer and pop your pesto cubes into a freezer bag and store.

The small serving size makes it easy to get out just the amount you need for a meal. You can also drop a cube or two in a pot of spaghetti sauce for zesty flavor. Go Green!



8/19/2014

shoulder bagOn the surface, homesteading seems like it’s all about livestock and gardens, and many of us have an image in our heads of the idealized small farmer walking out in the early morning to feed the chickens. While that is part of homesteading, it’s not all there is. At its core, homesteading is about learning new skills to increase your self-sufficiency, and the more skills you can learn, the better.

If this becomes reciprocal, it’s called bartering, and that’s what we’ve been doing lately with some family friends. Their daughter will be staying with us soon to learn photography from my mom. In exchange, they taught me to use a sewing machine.

My First Sewing Project

My first project with them was a tiny pillow with my name stitched onto it, but to my surprise, we weren’t done after that. I was going to make a cloth grocery bag.

We started by selecting the fabrics. For the outside of the bag, I chose a pink cloth embroidered with elephants; for the inside, a soft gray fabric touched with white, like faraway stars. I cut my fabrics to the same size and pinned them together inside-out, threaded the sewing machine’s needle, slipped my fabrics into the machine, chose my stitch, and started off.

sewing

Using a sewing machine is slow and repetitive—unless you’re as good at it as my friend’s mom is, in which case it’s fast and repetitive. Still, there’s something about knowing you’ve done a good job, or at least gotten better, that’s thrilling, though that’s true of any skill, sewing or ziplining or writing. When I finished sewing the fabrics together around three edges, I was proud of myself.  

My friend’s mom showed me how to turn the bag right-side-out, and we sewed the edges together, leaving room for a handle. For the handle, I selected a strip of rough pink fabric, and she slipped the ends into the spaces we’d left for that purpose. Then I got to sew them in place.

The final step was ironing. Being clumsy, I put my thumb in the wrong place almost immediately and had to run cold water on it, but the actual ironing was easy, and in minutes the bag was complete. It was satisfying enough knowing that I had made the bag, and that it had been less painful than my knitted hat, but even more so that I had contributed to my community.

Walking out to help feed the chickens afterward, I felt content.

Top photo by Evie S.



8/6/2014

chimney sweep jpg009

Subsequent to my previous blog on sweeping our own chimney I received notification from an organization that specifically certifies chimney sweeps. I was totally unaware of such an organization but in exchanging emails and perusing their website I have found that this non-profit organization is a good place to go if you don’t want to clean your own chimney. My prior blog on DIY was geared toward cleaning our own woodstove chimney but each chimney is different and may require different techniques. Professional chimney sweeps are able to not only inspect and clean your chimney but have closed circuit video cameras that can be inserted into your chimney to see if any cracks exist or if there are any other potential visible hazards that are hard to see with the naked eye. For anyone who is timid over heights, doesn’t want to get dirty or suspects that they may have chimney problems the following information may prove valuable.

The organization is called Chimney Safety Institute of America and is a non profit that educates homeowners and certifies Chimney Sweeps. Since there are no national or federal standards for those who service and clean your chimney this peer driven organization has been in existence from 1983 to create professional standards and consistency in maintaining safety and performance of chimneys - all kinds. They have a very informative and interactive web site at: www.csia.org . Simply by going to their web site and putting in your ZIP code it will index certified chimney sweeps in your area. Presently they have over 1,450 chimney sweeps that are certified. The web site is full of helpful and useful information pertaining to chimneys and it is easy to navigate.

To receive certification chimney sweeps must attend a review session, pass a one hour exam, then pass a 90 minute exam on residential codes and agree to the high standard of ethics formulated by the institute coupled with their peers. They will take prospective chimney sweeps and put them through their 6 day school to help them become certified. It is the purpose of this non profit organization to foster public awareness of issues relating to chimney and venting performance/safety plus promote the education of associated professionals through technical training and certification. Not only has the organization established a country wide standard of performance and professionalism but the underlying benefit is safer chimneys and fewer chimney fires. Having had a chimney fire I can attest that it was a very scary ordeal and I was fortunate that only the chimney was damaged and not our home.

Professional vs. DIY

I have successfully cleaned and maintained our chimney for so many years I can’t remember when I started doing this. It is nice to know (and the time is rapidly coming) that if I need a chimney sweep all I need do is log onto a web site and enter my ZIP code to find a professional sweep in my area. I have talked to friends who tell me that their chimney doesn’t need cleaning but I know differently. They burn highly resinous firewood and the slow accumulation of soot and creosote will eventually be ignited by a spark. The resulting damage will far exceed the cost of having their chimney cleaned regularly. Having personally witnessed a double wall insulated chimney go from red to orange to yellow to white hot I don’t intend to ever take another chance on a chimney fire. Our current chimney actually cost more than our woodstove and replacing it is an expense we would not like to do.

Chimney Options

I only see three options available when it comes to chimneys and chimney safety. One is do nothing and risk or wait for a chimney fire to occur. Second is do your own maintenance and chimney cleaning, especially if you have a knowledge of proper installation and maintenance and are not afraid to get dirty or are fearful of heights. Third, if you don’t want to undertake the personal risk of climbing to the top of your chimney hire a professional and certified chimney sweep to do it for you. Keeping a chimney clean and functional is vital to safety. Not maintaining the integrity of your chimney regularly is equal to never replacing the oil in your vehicle and expecting long and satisfactory life from your engine. Cleaning a chimney is a dirty job and whether you do it yourself or have someone do it for you it is needed on a regular basis for safety. I equate keeping our chimney safe and clean to a sign I see each time I go to my dentist that says “only brush the teeth you want to keep“. When it comes to a chimney it could be said to only brush those sections you want to keep.

Chimney Sweeps Look for More Than Creosote

An inspection by a trained professional may be just as important, if not more so, than actually sweeping the chimney. Having someone who knows what to look for can save a lot of heartache later. Home heating fires are not limited to just a chimney although that is a major cause. Clearances to combustibles, inadequate floor protection, damage to chimneys or flues are all equally important. A professional chimney sweep will recognize these defects in an instant. A periodic inspection will go a long way toward heading off a chimney fire and help reducing the risk of a chimney fire or worse. Having a certified chimney sweep who knows what to look for can be a real asset to having a properly functioning woodstove. Many thanks to Chimney Institute of America for advising me that there is a certification process and the benefits of hiring a professional chimney sweep.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray go to:www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com



8/4/2014
This article was originally posted in Instructables and is reposted with permission from Vicky Knoop.

copper table 1I needed a table in my oddly shaped kitchen that could act as additional counter space, a place to eat, a place to stash kitchen stools and general spot to put stuff on — all fitting into a 16-by-52-inch footprint. 

Given the odd dimensions and my limited budget, I felt my only option was to make a DIY table. Also, because my little apartment lacks a garage or outdoor space, I needed an easy project that didn't require power tools and a wood shop.

Reclaimed-wood tables are popular in home furnishings catalogs, but the $2,000 price tag is pretty far out of reach of most budgets. My solution is a DIY table made of copper pipe and reclaimed wood that cost me about $120 to make. 

After I finished the table project, I was super-stoked and built a smaller cart to roll underneath my reclaimed-wood table. Materials to make the cart (pictured at right) cost about $100. 

I decided not to solder the pipe on either piece of copper pipe furniture to keep a consistent color, and also so I wouldn't have to learn how to solder!

Supplies and Tools List

Epoxy
Power drill
7/8-inch butterfly drill bit
Paper plates for mixing epoxy
Stir sticks for mixing epoxy
Pipe cutter (sold in the plumbing aisle for about $7)

Materials List

35 feet of 3/4-inch copper pipe (I bought three 10-foot lengths and one 5-foot length)
Ten 3/4-inch copper tee fittings
Four 3/4-inch copper pipe ends
Two tubes 5-minute epoxy
Wood (anything you like, cut to measure 16 by 53 inches)

Optional: 
Copper tacks
Stain, paint or other wood finish
Mask or respirator if you're finishing the wood indoors

copper table 1

For the tabletop of my reclaimed-wood table, I bought some old floorboards from the local reuse store (Building REsources in San Francisco). Floorboards are great because they have fantastic character — plus I scrubbed the heck out of them — and I knew that the tongue-and-groove edges would help hold the planks together on the top of my DIY table. The REsources folks kindly cut the boards 53 inches long for me. If you're using individual boards as I did, rather than a continuous plank for your tabletop, you'll also need three wooden battens (each 15 inches long) and screws to hold the boards together on the underside. Be sure to set the battens back from the ends of the top so they don't interfere with the copper-pipe legs.

I tried to find used metal for this copper-pipe furniture project, but most copper is sold for scrap before it can be upcycled. Hardware stores sell new copper pipe in 10-foot lengths and 5-foot lengths. The 10-foot pipes costs less per foot than the 5-foot pipes. I bought a pipe cutter at the hardware store so I could cut the 10-foot lengths in the parking lot to fit inside my car.

Building the table is pretty straightforward. First, you'll have to settle on the size of the DIY table you want to build for your own space, then do a quick sketch and calculate the measurements of each piece. Take a look at the photos of my reclaimed-wood table. The front legs are assembled of three pieces joined by two tee fittings. The rear legs are assembled of four pieces joined by three tee fittings. All four legs are capped by copper pipe ends at the bottom. I included a bottom stretcher at the rear (but not at the front) so I could slide a stool under the table. The two top stretchers cross, making them longer than the bottom stretcher, but the stretchers on your own reclaimed-wood table wouldn't have to cross. The wooden top simply rests on the uncapped ends of the legs.

You can see more photographs of this project on my original Instructables post.



7/23/2014

Chimney sweep tools jpg

Chimney Fire

We heat with a wood stove from October until May which ends up being a long continuous burning season at our elevation of 9.750‘. When I was younger and living in N. Florida I had a chimney fire that was a very scary event. Our chimney pipe quickly went from red to orange to yellow to white hot and made some very ugly noises. Fortunately it did not catch anything on fire except the chimney but it certainly impressed me with its ferocity. Therefore in the last 17 winters here on our homestead we use a creosote remover throughout the burning season and I clean the wood stove and chimney at least once a year.

Safety Precautions on a Ladder

Our home is an A-Frame so I have to go up the ladder 30+ feet to reach the wind cap which seems almost straight up so it is imperative that all safety precautions be taken. Since I’m now in my 70’s that means reflexes are slower and my agility leaves much to be desired. Therefore I wear a climbing harness and when I get to the top of our 40’ ladder I attach it to the top rung with a strong rope. Since both of us can barely lift and carry the ladder I figure with its considerable weight it will stay in place and if I’m firmly attached at the top it is unlikely that either the ladder or I will go anywhere. To make matters even more risky when I get to where I can reach the chimney cap I have to turn around and face out on the ladder which puts a ladder rung under my heels and lots of air in front of me. With the harness if I slip I will only go a few feet before the heavy duty rope halts me. If you are afraid of height I would suggest that you consider hiring a professional chimney sweep to save you the anxiety.

Removing and Cleaning a Wind Cap

I will describe how I approach cleaning our system because each house and chimney are different. First after getting the ladder securely in place and having put on the climbing harness and adjusting it to a good fit I go up the ladder to take the wind cap off. Some are held in place with a band of metal that can be loosened through a small bolt. Others may be affixed to the top by sheet metal screws or still others may be like ours and sit inside the chimney by virtue of a collar.

I prefer to remove the wind cap and take it down to the ground where I can work on it with a wire brush or screw driver to scale the stubborn creosote off. Once I have it devoid of all soot and creosote accumulations I set it aside and proceed to clean the chimney from the inside. The less I have to ascend and descend the ladder the better I like it.

chimney sweep jpg009

How to Clean a Chimney

I approach the chimney from inside and first remove the double wall section of chimney and set it outside to be cleaned later. I now have a chimney open at both top and bottom. Unless you want a large amount of soot and creosote cascading down the chimney as you run the wire brush through it a method has to be devised to stop it at the chimney base. My method is using an old inner tube cut open so I have a large flat rubber piece that is wide enough to cover the bottom of the chimney with a margin left over so I can place a band clamp around the rubber and chimney end and tighten it in place. I cut a small X in the center large enough to accommodate the shaft of the brush rods before I clamp it to the chimney.

Insert the brush from the top side of the inner tube piece before the clamping process. Then I can screw my first section of fiberglass rod to the base of the brush and I start up the chimney brushing as I go. When it clears the top of the chimney I then repeat the process coming back down removing the 4’ sections when they come out through the rubber inner tube. Then after the last section of rod has been removed I put a garbage bag over the entire end of the chimney, release the clamp and let the rubber, brush and creosote all fall into the garbage bag. I remove the brush and rubber tube piece when I get them outside.

How to Clean a Woodstove

The next step is to then clean the double wall chimney I removed earlier by running the wire chimney brush through it several times. Then I remove the wood stove top and using my shop vacuum I suction out the inside of the stove from the top being sure to get all the loose material with the vacuum. I usually find a large quantity of soot, ash and creosote inside the stove after I remove the top. I wire brush those areas that do not vacuum up and then finish with a final vacuum.

I then clean the under side of the top and replace it. I then reinstall the double wall section of chimney pipe and that puts the entire system back together again. When everything is back together I clean out the firebox, ash pan, doors and inside until it has no further deposits. As I work on the stove I check the gaskets to make sure they are all in good working order and that finishes the job. For me by going slowly the total time expended is about 3 hours from start to finish. It also helps if you have someone helping you.

Safety With Creosote

Creosote is abrasive and an irritant especially if it gets in your eyes. I understand it is also carcinogenic so wear safety goggles and gloves when working around it. I try to not inhale any which is why I do the majority of my cleaning outside with the wind blowing away from me. If you choose to be your own chimney sweep be sure to go slow, use safety precautions and all safety equipment mentioned. Since I sometimes have to get my hand into the wind cap I also use rubber bands to close off my long sleeves at the wrist. Again if you are remotely afraid of heights or slightly clumsy it just might be worth the cost to hire a chimney sweep. The described method above has worked for me over the years and keeps our chimney and wood stove clean and safe. In case I forgot to mention it plan on getting dirty as it is a very dirty job.

For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and their life at high elevation go to: www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com



7/23/2014

Welsh coracles, courtesy of Wikicommons.

Under the green and rolling hills of Scotland, a dozen kilometres from the seaside, several people lay buried for four thousand years. Around them lay what we guess to be their keepsakes; beads, a bronze knife, tools and a battle-axe. Most interesting, though, was that at least one of them – a teenager when he died, curled up like a baby – lay in what was guessed to be a wicker coracle, like those used on these islands into the 20th century. He was buried in his boat.

Stop and consider a few things about this. First its antiquity: Before the Ancient Greeks or the Hebrew prophets, before all but the earliest pyramids, there were Scots. Also, you don’t see boat-burials every day; perhaps it was the youth’s most prized possession, like someone today might be buried in their Rolls-Royce. Finally, consider this was a giant basket, woven together by hand, and that it carried people safely across vast stretches of cold water. (1)

That’s not as strange as it sounds; humans around the world, whether jungle tribes or Eskimos, whether in the Stone Age or the Industrial Revolution, used similar woven boats. Who first thought of it we don’t know; the first basket fragments we have were about 13,000 years old, but we have circumstantial evidence that humans might have been weaving baskets the size of boats almost four hundred centuries earlier. Not four hundred years, by the way – four hundred centuries.

You see, early humans first appeared in Australia about 50,000 years ago, and even with the ice age lowering sea levels, you still can’t walk there. To get there from Asia (presumably, because anything else would be even stranger) they would have had to set out on the ocean -- whole families in boats, not knowing if there was land out there. Obviously they floated on something, and we know of no other kind of boat-making technology for tens of thousands of years to come. Even if they only lashed logs together to make rafts, as you see in so many castaway films, they would have had to use the similar technology of weaving fibres together to make knots.

In the centuries since, cultures around the world wove boats: Tibetans floated in Ku-Drus of woven wood and yak-skin, Eskimos lashed sealskin around their long umiaks, Arabs traversed the Tigris and Euphrates in quffahs, and the Celts of the British Isles – Irish, Scots and Welsh -- had an amazing variety of coracles for fresh waters and curraghs for the sea.

Most were woven from some local pliable wood – although Eskimos used sometimes used bones -- then covered with some kind of skin, and finally waterproofed in some way. They were often rounder in flat water, like the Irish coracles, and more oval or pointed in running or sea waters, like the Irish curraghs or Eskimo kayaks. They also tended to be alarmingly tiny crafts, often just big enough for one – although a traveller to Iraq in the 1930s reported seeing woven boats large enough to carry several human passengers and a few horses. (2)

Coracles in particular had the basic shape of a bowl, and its users needed substantial practice to avoid tipping over. The advantage, however, was that once the user reached shore, the small and lightweight craft could be lifted and carried on one’s back. An English poet in the 1600s described “salmon-fishers moist, their leather boats begin to hoist,” looking like turtles as they walked away from the water carrying their boats upside-down across the countryside. (3)

On these islands coracles and curraghs were used from ancient times – the ancient Welsh myth cycle the Mabinogion mentions them, as did Julius Caesar on his trip to Britain. Irish monks like St. Columba in the sixth century travelled around isolated islands in a hide-bound boat, and Hector Boece’s 1527 history of Scotland describes their frequent use of coracles:

How be it, the Highlanders have both the writings and language they had before, more ingenious than any other people. How may there be any greater ingenuity than to make any boat of any bull-hide, bound with nothing but wands? This boat is called a curragh, and with it they fish salmon … and when they have done their fishing they bear it to another place on their back as they please.

Fishing was not just a pastime for such people, but a matter of survival; the protein they brought in was precious, especially in Catholic countries where meat was forbidden part of the year. Another common use was to gather fish and eel traps from rivers and lobster pots from the sea – also, of course, woven of wood like baskets. The traps operated on a simple principle; a bit of bait could lure an animal into the trap but, if it were shaped properly, they would be unable to escape.

Coracles also proved useful in other ways; when shepherds washed their sheep, for example, coracle-men positioned themselves downstream to catch any sheep that might be carried away. And, of course, they offered simple transportation across a landscape lined with lakes, rivers and canals, and among many islands separated by the sea.

Each region had its own design – not just region as in “Europe,” but as in each local village or stream; small Welsh rivers like the Teifi, the Taf, the Wye, the Monnow, the Lugg, the Usk, the Dee and the Severn each had their own styles of coracles, each apparently made for the conditions of that place. (4)

Irish coracles and curraghs were woven from willow or hazel, and typically built upside-down. Locals here began by planting a row of hazel rods straight into the ground, continuing in a wide curve until the row came back to where it began. Then, when the rods looked like the bars of a large cage, they wove withies – thin strips of wood – back and forth between the rods along the ground. This would be the gunwale – the “rim” of the boat – when it was flipped over.

Then the hazel rods --- the bars of the cage, as it were -- were bent down across the oval to make a wicker dome, until the whole structure formed a large, solid basket. Then a covering was lashed to the frame – cow-hide was typical, although horse-hide and seal-skin were also used. Finally, the cover was waterproofed – in recent years with tar or some other petroleum derivative, but originally with tallow or butter.

Such ingenious craft opened up new industries, crafts and food sources for ordinary hunters or farmers, allowing them to traverse lakes and rivers easily and travel between islands. They allowed people on islands or in remote areas communicate and trade with the rest of the world. They let people create their own craft for the unique conditions of their place, with nothing more than local resources, knives and skill. In short, for tens of thousands of years human survival depended on such small and unlikely-looking creations.

Sources

1) T. Watkins, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology and Underwater Exploration, 1980

T. Watkins, The excavation of an Early Bronze Age cemetery at Barns Farm, Dalgety, Fife, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 112 (1984) p. 48 – 114

2) James Hornell, “Coracles of the Tigris and Euphrates,” The Mariner's Mirror, Volume 24, Issue 2, 1938

3) Andrew Marvell, “Upon Appleton House,” 1651.

4) James Hornell, Water Transport Origins & Early Evolution, 1936.



5/2/2014

tornadoDarden describes a family of five who lived on a farm outside of Higdon, Ala., a small community in the northern part of the state. They had no storm shelter, but they did live in a home that he says was well built.

On Saturday, Darden and a partner visited the family. "The mother and three daughters were there at the time," he recalls. Looking at the wall-free ground floor — all that remained of the home—"I introduced myself and said: Thank God y'all were not home. "Her response? "Oh, we were here." With no storm shelter and nothing but a slab foundation left, "I really thought she was joking," he continues. "I asked: Where were you at?"

She led the two men to a spot on the storm-swept slab, where nothing but a small patch of hardwood flooring and a scrap of carpeting remained — parts of each pulled up by the tornado. The rest of the flooring vanished into the vortex and hasn't been found. The patch is all that was left of the interior hallway in which the family huddled. "They were not touched," he says, in a voice tinged with amazement. "They were not sucked up. They didn't have a scratch on them."

— Pete Spotts, “Lessons From the Wreckage: How Alabama Could Help Tornado Preparedness,” Christian Science Monitor, May 4, 2011

With thousands of flattened homes and numerous devastated communities in the aftermath of this week's widespread tornadoes, and roughly 1/3 of the population of the United States under a tornado watch today as storms continue across the Midwestern and Southern states, the following tornado safety and survival tips could help save some lives! Though nothing can guarantee absolute safety in the path of a tornado, outside of a shelter with reinforced concrete and steel walls, understanding something about the nature of tornadoes, safety tips for surviving a tornado strike, and which common folklore is to be trusted or ignored, will improve your chances for making the right decision if that day should come when you are confronted by an approaching tornado.

Tornado Facts and Myths

• It is commonly believed that tornadoes happen mostly in the spring, but the peak of tornado season varies with location, and tornadoes can occur any month of the year. For example, the peak of tornado season in the northern plains and upper Midwest is June or July but it is from May to early June in the southern plains, and even earlier in the spring for the Gulf Coast.

• There is a myth that tornadoes can only spawn and strike in relatively flat areas, but they have actually occurred in high areas of the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada, and Appalachian Mountains. Though more frequent in the flatter areas of the plains states and the southeast, tornadoes have been spotted in such varied locations as Vermont, upstate New York, Nevada, and one hiker spotted and photographed a tornado at 12,000 feet in the Sequoia National Park of California.

• A common myth is that trailer parks attract tornadoes. They certainly do not attract tornadoes, but due to their light weight and lack of heavy-duty anchoring to strong structural foundations, trailers are extremely vulnerable to damage from tornadoes.

• Another common myth is that you should open your windows to allow the pressure to equalize should a tornado strike your home. Do not waste your time opening windows. If a tornado strikes, it will blow out the windows, and the last place you should be is near a window, where there is the greatest danger from flying debris and glass.

• There is a common myth that owing to the direction of rotation of tornadoes in the Northern Hemisphere the southwest corner of a building is the safest place to be. This myth is totally false. Corners are areas of buildings that are most prone to damage. The safest areas are in the center of the building in a windowless room or closet, and on the lowest level (in the basement if there is one).

• There is a common myth that highway overpasses provide protection from tornadoes. In fact, the underside of a highway overpass often acts as a wind tunnel, channeling high winds and debris, and there are a number of reported deaths of people who parked under an overpass while seeking shelter from approaching tornadoes.

Tornado Prediction and Warnings

A tornado watch is issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) when they have determined that local conditions are ripe for generating tornadoes. Once a tornado watch has been issued, it is advisable to stay tuned to your local radio and television stations for further updates. If you live in tornado country, the use of a NOAA weather radio is highly recommended, especially those models that have a battery backup and can emit an audible warning whenever a severe weather alert is issued. This is the time to turn on the audible alarm switch on your NOAA radio to alert you if the watch is upgraded to a warning. Once a tornado watch has been issued, stay alert using your eyes, ears, and other senses to watch for signs of an approaching tornado, and make sure you have access to a safe shelter. Watch for unusual behavior on the part of pets and animals that might be an indication of an approaching tornado.

Once a tornado has been spotted visually, or on weather radar, a tornado warning is issued. Once a warning has been issued, you should take immediate precautions and seek shelter. If you live in a mobile home or other poorly protected building, you should seek shelter elsewhere, if possible. Bring your radio with you to listen for status updates and an “all-clear” signal when the warning is over.

Note: Sirens and severe weather alerts may provide advance tornado warnings, but tornadoes can occur in any season and without warning!

Tornado Survival Tips and Strategies

• If you are at home, seek shelter in the bottommost floor, and innermost area, such as an inner hallway, bathroom, or closet. Stay away from windows, outer walls, and building corners. Do not waste time opening windows.

• If you have a “safe room” (a specially constructed room protected by reinforced concrete and/or steel), a basement, root cellar, or storm cellar, those are the safest places to be. In the basement, the safest place is under a sturdy table or mattress, and in a position that is not directly below heavy items on the floor above, such as a refrigerator or piano.
• Protect yourself as best as possible. Wear a bicycle or hockey helmet, if you have one. Crouching in a bathtub or shower stall can provide improved protection, as can lying under a sturdy table or overturned couch.

• If you are in a car, do not try to outrun a tornado as it can travel at speeds in excess of 70 mph. However, it is worth taking a moment to watch the tornado closely, comparing its motion to a fixed object on the ground, so as to gauge its direction of travel. If you see it moving to one side or the other, and can travel in the opposite direction, then do so. If it does not appear to move to the left or right, it is headed straight for you. In that case, you must make a decision. If you have the option of traveling to the right or left, then do so, but if you are stuck in traffic, or the tornado is very close, you must abandon your vehicle and seek shelter, since tornadoes can easily pick up cars and even tractor trailers, sometimes throwing them hundreds of yards. If possible, pull your car to the side of the road and do not park in lanes of traffic, since with the heavy rains that often accompany tornadoes, a driver traveling at high speeds might not see your car parked in the middle of the road.

• If you are stuck in your car with an impending tornado strike, crouch down as low as you can, with your seatbelt buckled, staying away from the windows, and shielding your head with your arms and hands.

• If you are in the open, perhaps having abandoned your car, seek shelter in a building or culvert, or lie down flat in a ditch or depression and cover your head with your hands. Not a pleasant thought, but people have survived tornadoes by doing this! Stay away from cars and trees, since they will become heavy flying objects with the power to kill and maim.

• Do not park under an overpass, since these tend to act as wind tunnels funneling debris and magnifying winds.

• Avoid shopping malls, theatres, gymnasiums, and other buildings with large open interior spaces where the roof might easily collapse. If inside of such a building, with no time to seek shelter elsewhere, seek shelter under a doorjamb or next to an interior wall that may provide some structural support and protection in the event of a building collapse.

This article is adapted from When Disaster Strikes: A Comprehensive Guide for Emergency Planning and Crisis Survival by Matthew Stein









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Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

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