Have you winterized?

winter home

This winter will be my first “REAL” winter. If you have always lived in an area where you have snow and you manage to have temperatures that fall below freezing, then you probably have been winterizing your house since you were a child.  I have not, so I figured that there may be a few people in my same situation. Whether you are new to an area that has colder temperatures than you are used to, or you are in your first home and you are just now learning how to keep your house safe during the winter, I am going to give you a list of things that you need to do before your cold winter comes.

Prepping your house for the winter can be time consuming and a little costly. If you don’t winterize during the fall then you will probably be spending more money during the winter to fix broken pipes and other items that manage to break during the colder temperatures. Below is a list of things you need to look at when trying to get your house ready for the winter.

Outdoor Preparations:

  • Extend the life of your fuel supply by insulating walls and attics, caulking and weather-stripping doors and windows, and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic. 
  • Outdoor structures, such as the barn, shed or any other structure that may provide shelter for your family, neighbors, livestock or equipment may also need winterizing. Clear rain gutters; repair roof leaks and cut away tree branches that could fall on a house or other structure during a storm.
  • Clean and inspect chimneys and other heating equipment every year.
  • Insulate pipes with insulation or newspapers and plastic and allow faucets to drip a little during cold weather to avoid freezing. Running water, even at a trickle, helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside and kept clear.
  • Keep fire extinguishers on hand, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them. House fires pose an additional risk, as more people turn to alternate heating sources without taking the necessary safety precautions.
  • Learn how to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts).
  • Hire a contractor to check the structural ability of the roof to sustain unusually heavy weight from the accumulation of snow – or water, if drains on flat roofs do not work.
  • Rock salt or more environmentally safe products to melt ice on walkways. 
  • Sand to improve traction.
  • Snow shovels and other snow removal equipment.
  • Sufficient heating fuel. You may become isolated in your home and regular fuel sources may be cut off. Store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove.
  • Minimize travel. If travel is necessary, keep a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle and have winter related items included.

For indoor preparations:

  • Make a family-based emergency plan.
  • Have a short term emergency supply and ensure that you have an ample supple water and  shelf stable foods.
  • Adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm in an off grid environment.
  • Make a Family Communications Plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.
  • Have a battery powered radio on hand to listen to changing weather conditions.
  • Know how to stay warm in an off grid situation.
  • Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather. Move other animals or livestock to sheltered areas with non-frozen drinking water.

Extreme cold can be dangerous to both you and your house. Make sure that this fall you prepare you and your house for extreme temperatures.  If you have any questions please call your local County Extension Agent for help.

Resources:

http://readynutrition.com/resources/checklist-for-winterizing-your-home_04012014/

Amy Griffin

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – Ochiltree County

County Extension Agent – Family and Consumer Science

Maroon & Gray TX A&M AGRI

Canning Basics

Pressure-Canning-3

It is that time of year, where you are finally reaping the benefits of your hard work and labor from your garden.  You have been waiting all summer to pick the fruits and vegetables that you have been patiently waiting to ripen.  The only problem is that there is so much of everything, that there is no way that your family of 4 is going to eat all this produce before it goes bad! This can be frustrating, however, there are different ways that you can preserve your food that will allow you to enjoy your fresh garden fruits and veggies all year round!

Today we are going to talk about the canning methods! There is more than one method of canning, so make sure that you are using the right method for the type of fruit or vegetable you are wishing to can.  Using the wrong method of canning can cause microorganisms to grow and can be a health hazard as well as cause the food to spoil.

The first method to talk about is Boiling water bath method.  This method is safe for fruits, tomatoes, pickles, as well as jams, jellies, and fruit preserves.  To use this method jars are heated and completely covered with boiling water. These are high acid foods (pH value of 4.6 or lower). Because they are high in acid Clostridium botulinum spores will not germinate to form the vegetative cells that produce the deadly toxin.

The next method that you can use is the pressure canning method.  This is the ONLY safe method of canning vegetables, meats, poultry, and seafood since they are low acid (pH value higher than 4.6) To use the pressure canning method you will need either a gauged pressure canner or a weighted pressure canner.  There is a difference between a pressure canner and a pressure cooker, so make sure that you have a pressure canner when using this method.  Also, if you are going to be using an older pressure canner, possible one that has been passed down, to make sure that it is safe to use, contact your local Family and Consumer Science County Extension agent and have them test it for you. They can check the seals as well as the gauges to make sure that it is properly working.

Once you are ready to can using the pressure canning method, you will place the jars of food in 2 to 3 inches of water inside the pressure canner that has been headed to a temperature of at least 240 Degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature can only be reached inside of a pressure canner since the temperature is above the boiling point of water., and it destroys bacteria such as Clostridium botulinium.  This is a common soil microorganism which produces a very deadly toxin or poison. It is commonly known as botulism.

There are many other unsafe canning methods out there. Many of them caused spoilage and bacteria to grow in the food.  The only two researched safe methods of canning are Water Bath and Pressure Canning.

Resources:

So Easy to Preserve, 6th Edition, Cooperative Extension, The University of Georgia

Preserving the Harvest – Canning Vegetables

Preserving the Harvest – Canning Fruit

10 Canning Tips

For more information on Canning or methods of canning contact your local Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Agent.

Amy Griffin

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – Ochiltree County

County Extension Agent – Family and Consumer Science

Maroon & Gray TX A&M AGRI

Have you chosen MyPlate lately?

myplate_whiteIn the busy world that we live in, it can be hard to make sure that we are eating healthy and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  Many times our food comes from the drive – thru line at the local fast food restaurant, or putting a meal in the microwave as soon as we get home We are always scarfing down what we can before we head to our next function.

By making sure that we have the right balanced diet, we are not only healthier, but we can help combat series diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Here are the Top 10 MyPlate tips that can help you maintain a healthier a lifestyle and get a start to a healthier “YOU”choose myplate

 

Source: http://www.choosemyplate.gov

 

For more information on healthy lifestyles and nutrition please contact your local Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Agent.

 

Amy Griffin

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Ochiltree County

County Extension Agent – Family and Consumer Science

Maroon & Gray TX A&M AGRI

Cooking with Friends

Hope everyone is having a great Monday! Everyone has been asking me about Freezer Meals! Well Cooking with Friends is here! June 18th will be our first session! If you would like to register call the Extension Office and Registers! I am limiting it to 10 people, so make sure you get your spot! Once you register, stop by the office to pick up your grocery list! Bring your friends or come and make new ones! I can’t wait to see you there!

Cooking-with-Friends-Marketing-Materials-Flyer-FINAL

Ways to keep those Mosquitoes from Biting!

Mosquito_Tasmania_cropSince we have had a substantial amount of rain, the mosquitoes have been out like crazy! When you walk outside you seem to be covered in them.  Everyone is walking around swatting just trying to get to the vehicle to leave.

Here are some ways that you can keep them from biting you, so that you can find relief when you walk outside.

1. Try chemical-free repellents – There are many different sprays that you can use to prevent mosquitoes from biting.  Safer alternatives than just using those that include DEET are : oil of lemon eucalyptus, a major mosquito enemy. Try the brand “Repel,” which uses the fragrant oil to ward off bites.

2. Time when you decide to go outside – Try to stay inside during dusk and dawn. These are peek times for many types of Mosquitoes to be out.

3. Keep Standing water to a minimum – With the amount of water we have experienced recently, it is hard to get rid of all of it. However, if you have standing water such as Kiddie Pools or any other standing water source, drain it. These attract the mosquitoes. Make sure that you put on repellant if you are going to be near water.

4. Wear light colored clothing. – Bugs attract to darker colors. Wear light colors so that you are not as attractive to the mosquitoes.

5. Don’t wear flowery perfumes – Everyone wants to smell nice, and the flowery smells from Bath and Body Works are the best. However, mosquitoes love nectar from flowers. They love it almost as much as they do humans, so stick with a less floral fragrance for the summer.

Mosquitoes are pesky little insects and are a pain when they are everywhere. This summer make sure that you are making the necessary precautions to keep them from biting you.

References:

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Wellness/ways-prevent-mosquito-bites/story?id=24332882#

 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your local Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Agent.

 

 

Amy Griffin

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Ochiltree County

County Extension Agent – Family and Consumer Science

Maroon & Gray TX A&M AGRI

Riptide Safety

Southern Ocean

This past weekend many families found themselves celebrating Memorial Day on the coast of Texas. The bright weather on the beaches brought many families to have fun in the sun.

When at the beach it is very important that you and your children are very safe. Making sure they aware of the tide and currents in the water. When I was younger I was always taught to be cautious, however, now I know the true tragedy that the ocean can cause.

The beach can be a very dangerous place even if you take the necessary precautions. While you are at the beach please make sure that you are being as safe as possible.

Rip currents are responsible for deaths on our nation’s beaches every year, and for most of the rescues performed by lifeguards. Beachgoers should be aware of how dangerous rip currents are, and swim only at beaches with lifeguards in the designated swimming area. Rip currents can form in any large open water area, such as low spots and breaks in sandbars, or near structures such as jetties and piers.

Here are tips in case you get caught in a Rip Current.

  • If you are caught in a rip current, stay calm and don’t fight the current.
  • Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you are free, turn and swim toward shore.
  • If you can’t swim to the shore, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head toward shore.
  • If you feel you can’t make it to the shore, draw attention to yourself by waving and calling for help.
  • Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.
  • If someone is in trouble in the water, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call 9-1-1.Throw the victim something that floats – a lifejacket, cooler, inflatable ball and yell instructions on how to escape the current.
  • When at the beach, check conditions before entering the water. Check to see if any warning flags are up or ask a lifeguard about water conditions, beach conditions, or any potential hazards.

Resources:

http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/water-safety/beach-safety

If you have any questions please contact your local Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent.

 

Amy Griffin

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Ochiltree County

County Extension Agent – Family and Consumer Science

Maroon & Gray TX A&M AGRI