Both Marion and Rich at Winding Pathways are regular blood donors. Rich will reach a milestone in early April. He’ll give his 100th unit of blood to Impact Life in Cedar Rapids. Marion’s not far behind.
Giving blood is easy, costs nothing, and is a way we can help other people. Here are some interesting blood donation facts:
- An average donation is used to help three people, so Rich’s 100 donations have helped around 300 people and maybe saved some lives.
- A unit of blood averages about 500 milliliters, or a little more than a pint. Rich’s have averaged about 528 ml, so he’s given about 112 gallons over decades of giving.
- A person has 1.2 to 1.5 gallons of blood in their body, and a donation takes about 10% of it. The body replaces the lost blood. Donation centers require eight weeks between donations to allow for replenishment.
- Blood is typically given to people during surgery or for treatment of conditions like Sickle Cell Disease; to those who have suffered a trauma, like an accident; and during surgery or childbirth if needed.
Giving blood is easy. And, Marion gets a cool blood band decoration!
We hope we’ll never need blood but if we do we’ll quietly thank the unknown donor. Both Marion and Rich at Winding Pathways encourage everyone to become blood donors.
Research Yields a Find
Part of our Winding Pathways business is writing travel and outdoor adventure articles for the Cedar Rapids GAZETTE and other publications. Preparedness blogs on our website encourage people to prepare for emergencies by keeping non-perishable food and other supplies on hand in a big plastic “preparedness” bin. So, we occasionally buy and try new products to test.
We found the meals tasty and filling.
While writing an article on Iowa backpacking, we bought a pouch of dehydrated food at SOKO in Czech Village. The brand was new to us. Backpackers know that dehydrated meals have a long shelf life, weigh little, and only need boiling water to prepare. They’re nutritious and even taste good. We keep about two weeks’ worth of dehydrated food in a storage bin just in case we have an extended power outage or emergency when we can’t access fresher food. We also sometimes take several meals with us when camping.
But we recently found a new value of dehydrated meals. We’d been busy. Very busy and had to skip a routine visit to the grocery store. Late one afternoon it was time to prepare dinner, but the refrigerator was bare. Because we’d just bought a pouch of Good to-Go brand dehydrated Chicken Gumbo to photograph for our article it was on the kitchen counter. We cooked it and enjoyed a pleasant backpacking meal while sitting at home.
Good To-Go chef Jennifer Scism creates delicious meals.
“Backpacking meals have come a long way since MRE (meals ready to eat) and there are options for diets ranging from gluten-free to keto and beyond. Good To-Go chef Jennifer Scism creates meals that are delicious and use only recognizable and pronounceable ingredients,” said Kate Ketschek of Revolution House Media and communications representative for Good To-Go meals.
The YUM Factor
We appreciated our recent meal simply because we hadn’t gotten to the grocery store and were hungry. The Chicken Gumbo tasted great on a cold snowy evening and was oh so convenient. Dehydrated meals have value beyond backpacking.
Two years ago, hardly anyone knew what the novel Coronavirus was, but since then this crafty virus and the nasty disease it causes, COVID-19, has hardly been all over the news. Like most people we thought it was a disease of only humans.
We were astonished to learn that a high percent of Iowa tested deer has been found positive for COVID. With deer hunting season approaching we wondered if deer pose a threat to people either butchering an animal or eating the meat. So, we contacted Dr. Tyler Harms. He’s the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Deer Program Leader.
Dr. Tyler Harms, head of deer project in Iowa recommends safety gloves and hand washing when processing and preparing venison.
According to him the threat seems minimal, however, he recommends the following actions for anyone processing a deer:
- Wear rubber gloves when processing an animal.
- Wash hands and equipment thoroughly after handling deer meat
According to Dr. Harms, Iowa’s deer are asymptomatic. They don’t seem to be getting sick or dying.
Bucks are still active in December.
December is Iowa’s main deer hunting season. Over 100,000 animals are likely to be harvested. Here at Winding Pathways, we enjoy venison as local, organic, free-range meat. But we’ll be sure to follow Dr. Harm’s advice when handling meat.
In many ways COVID is a mysterious disease. Where it came from remains a hazy mystery, and its variants continue to perplex people. Now it’s been found in animals. Iowa’s deer aren’t the only animals that test positive. The disease has been found in leopards in zoos and mink. It’s likely that many other animals and deer nearly everywhere carry COVID. How they got it and how it’s spread is a mystery.
Like many people with a small flock of backyard chickens, we faced a dilemma.
Our birds are housed in a coop built inside a pole barn. There was no electric power in our barn.
The chickens kept on laying eggs.
Fall’s Shortening days signals chickens to slow egg production just as many families need plenty of eggs for the holiday baking season. Placing a timer-controlled light in the coop, set to come on early each morning, gives chickens the optimal 15 hours of combined artificial and natural light they need to keep laying.
Lights and timers need electricity that our barn lacked. So, years ago, we hired an electrician to trench a wire from our house to the barn and add outlets and overhead lights. It works fine but the electrician’s bill was stiff and our chicken lights add to our monthly power bill. Now there’s a less expensive option.
P.S. The Holidays are coming….This might be a great gift for chickens and caregivers!
After trenching the wire was laid down.
We hired a company to install solar panels on the barn roof.
Solar powers our home and the light needed for the coop.
Batteries, light bulbs, and solar collectors have become much more efficient and less expensive. It’s now easy to purchase a solar electric system to power outbuildings that lack electricity.
Alternative Light Options
Big box stores sell security lights that include a solar collector, occupancy sensor, battery, and light bulb. The collector creates electricity during the day that charges the battery. The sensor recognizes when a person approaches in the dark and turns on the light. These are fine for their intended purpose but don’t work to add a few extra hours of timer-controlled light for chickens.
A portable solar kit costs around $400, is easy to install and to light your way. (Courtesy Solar Illuminations)
We recently learned of a company called Solar Illuminations, which can create lighting solutions for chicken coops and other outbuildings. A kit including a solar collector, battery, timer, fixture, and the bulb is just over $400. Sounds expensive but likely is less costly than hiring an electrician to run a wire. And, the sun never sends a bill for electricity generated by a solar panel.
Installing a system is easy and doesn’t require an electrician. Systems can also be designed to power an aquarium aerator that will help keep drinking water unfrozen on cold nights or provide work light in an outbuilding.
We love modern technology’s ability to harness the sun’s energy to give hens a few extra hours of light during winter’s darkness. The result is more eggs without adding a penny to the monthly electric bill.
*Note: Winding Pathways received no special compensation or materials from companies in writing this blog.
Four years ago, we installed a net-metered photovoltaic system on our barn roof. Photovoltaics, or simply PV, is a term that means “light electricity” or solar energy.
On sunny days solar powers our energy needs.
We appreciate our PV system. On sunny days, when our system produces more electricity than we use, it runs our meter backward as power flows out into the energy grid. At night and on cloudy days, when we’re using more power than we’re producing, we draw electricity in from Alliant Energy, our utility. At the end of each month, we pay the “net” so it’s called a Net-Metered System. This eliminates the need to have storage batteries. We’ve had a monthly bill as low as $5!
But what happens when the grid goes down? It did on August 10, 2020, when a derecho roared through Iowa with 140 mile an hour winds. Hundreds of miles of wires were torn down as trees crashed into them. We joined thousands of other homes without power.
Solar chargers help keep people connected when the power goes out.
So, did our PV system power our lights, computers, and television? Nope. We used candles and lanterns when it got dark and couldn’t power our computer, television, or any other electric appliance for about two weeks.
Net-metered systems, like ours, have an automatic switch built into them so they don’t export electricity back to the grid when it’s down. It’s a safety mechanism designed to prevent a utility employee working to restore power from getting a shock. Our system produced electricity during the blackout, but it just dissipated. As soon as our power was restored the PV system again sent power outward.
An Important PV Safety Tip
Our PV system survived the wind intact but others were ripped from roofs and tumbled to the ground. A PV panel laying on the ground upright makes electricity. Grabbing wires or the panel can give someone a tremendous shock. If a PV panel is on the ground stay away……or cover it with a tarp to darken it so it doesn’t produce electricity. It’s safest to wait until after dark to flip it.
Note: The below references to companies are Winding Pathways’ own experiences with quality products.
What Are Common Causes of Power Outages?
Usually, people lose electric power because of a tornado, hurricane, blizzard, or a windstorm that blows down trees. We were surprised that Pacific Gas and Electric planned a deliberate outage to prevent sparks from igniting a forest fire like the terrible one that destroyed the town of Paradise. CA, last year.
Interviews with impacted residents on the national news made us realize how unprepared many people are for the loss of electricity. Californians flocked to gas stations and grocery stores to stock up on fuel and food.
Preparation is Best
This powerful lantern runs several hours on the battery.
Humans are addicted to the flow of electrons we call electricity. Winding Pathways encourages everyone to prepare for times when power is not there. Several previous blogs detail how families can prepare to ride out an outage in relative comfort
Preparation is neither hard nor expensive. Check our past blogs for detail but here’s the short list of simple items to keep on hand in case the power goes off for a few days:
Basic Items to Consider
Food: A few days’ worth of non-perishable food beats not eating. Dehydrated meals keep nearly forever and canned goods also have a high storage life. When a blizzard approaches people flock to grocery stores to buy milk and bread. Neither is needed. And, milk will spoil if not kept cold. Keep powdered milk and crackers on hand just in case.
Light: Flashlights help people find their way around on dark nights, but they’re not too useful when lots of light is needed for reading or preparing a meal. Modern LED lanterns are ideal for general lighting. Our Milwaukee lamp was made for construction workers but throws out plenty of light and runs all night on one rechargeable battery. We keep a few batteries always charged. Many brands of lanterns are on the market. We recommend that people keep one in the closet to help on dark nights.
Fuel and backup heat: Rather than waiting in line at a gas station when power might go out, simply keep some gas in storage in the garage. Be sure to add a gas stabilizer to it. We rotate our gas in spring and fall by simply pouring the old gas into the car’s tank and then filling the can with fresh gas. We keep ten gallons in storage. Anyone living in a cold climate needs to have a backup plan in case the power goes off. Keeping pipes from freezing is important. See our earlier blogs for tips.
Water: Usually municipal water still flows even if the power goes off but it’s always a good idea to keep several gallons of clean water in storage just in case.
Readers can also go to the American Red Cross and ready.gov for excellent information on preparedness kits.
Modern people rely heavily on electricity but sometimes we have to make do without it.
Solar chargers help keep people connected when the power goes out.
Simple preparation makes waiting out an outage comfortable and easy.