Save Baby Chicks From Certain Death

 Hand Warmers

Keep hand warmers nearby in case of power outage.

We weren’t worried when a 37-degree north wind took to blowing on Saturday, March 25th.  Our chicks were safe inside the barn brooder.  Then, our electric power went out.   Normally that wouldn’t be a problem. Our wood stove keeps the house warm without electricity and we have camp stove for cooking. And the adult chickens do well in most weather.

However, the sudden unexpected loss of electricity threatened our 50 baby chicks living in a plywood brooder under heat lamps out in the barn. Electric heat lamps normally keep them snugly warm in the otherwise cold barn.

We heard about the power failure while shopping. It took a half hour to get home and we found the cold chicks huddled together in a vain attempt to keep warm. We had no idea how long the power would be off so immediately put our back up plan in place. Here’s what we did:

  • Filled two plastic jugs with hot water and placed them near the chicks. The babies immediately snuggled up to the warm bottles.
  • Tore the plastic covering off six chemical hand warmers to activate them. These are sold to farmers, carpenters, and hunters to keep their pockets warm during winter outings. They get very warm but not hot. We put them under the chicks.

The milk jugs and hand warmers didn’t warm the entire brooder, but they did keep the chicks warm enough to survive three hours until the power came back on.

Huddled in corner

Chicks huddle together when cold.

Anyone brooding baby chicks should have a back-up plan to keep their peeping friends warm in case the electricity goes out. A couple of milk jugs and a few hand warmers can prevent a disaster.

Overlooked Preparedness Item*

Approaching Storm

Thunderstorms carry the risk of wind, lightning and power outages.

The United States seems to have one storm season followed by another. The year starts with blizzard threats and then transitions into tornado season. That’s followed by hurricane season until blizzards again become possible in late fall.

Many people have prepared for loss of utilities caused by a huge storm. They have food, water, and emergency lights ready, but Hurricane Sandy revealed that many had forgotten one important modern survival need.

When Sandy shut down electrical service to millions of Americans cell phone companies turned on their back-up generators and the system continued to work. But, most cell phone owners had no way to recharge their phones and other electronic devices. Being unable to use their phone caused anxiety. After a few days many towns set up charging stations in public buildings powered by big generators, but to use one involved a drive and wait.

An outstanding item to add to an emergency pack is a back-up battery and emergency cell phone charger. Many solar powered chargers are on the market. Often they are marketed to backpackers and wilderness trekkers, but they work just as well in the city. Simply plug the charger into the phone and put it in sunshine and it will recharge the phone’s battery.

Another solution is to keep handy a back-up battery that will charge a phone. Many are on the market, and even cordless tool batteries often have a port that enables power to flow from the tool’s battery to the phone.  A spare battery will often recharge a phone a couple of times. Solar chargers are limitless but the sun needs to shine.

  • Winding Pathways does independent, unpaid reviews of products.


Tools for Every Home

Hand Tools

We keep an array of hand tools for small projects around the home and yard.

Our home at Winding Pathways shares needs familiar to every homeowner or renter. Things break, new items need to be assembled and pictures need to be hung. A basic set of household tools makes common tasks easy, even for people not particularly handy.

We have dozens of tools.  Many are specialized, and only occasionally used but our list of frequently used tools are ones that will prove useful in every home.   *Here are our favorites:

Pliers.  Three types. One is a simple pair of gripping pliers used whenever something needs to be held tightly. A second is needle nosed (or long nosed) pliers used to grab and hold small items.  They make fishing small items that fall into crevices easy. The third is a pair of locking pliers, often called “Vice Grips”.  They make it easy to tightly grip something using only one hand,         leaving the other free to do work.

Screwdrivers:  A quality, old fashioned slotted screwdriver is invaluable around the house. We use ours for all sorts of things that have nothing to do with driving a screw. Prying and scraping are only two of dozens of uses. A few years ago we bought a much more useful screwdriver for inserting and removing screws. It’s actually a multi screwdriver all-in-one tool. If you have     ever climbed up a ladder to remove a screw only to discover that the screw’s head is different from the screwdriver in hand, you will find this tool the best!   Our new one has six different bits, all designed to fit different types of screw. Various bits are stored in the handle, making it almost certain the tool will work no matter what type screw is encountered.

Cordless Electric drill:  The only power tool on our list is an amazingly versatile tool. Drilling holes is only one of many tasks it completes with ease. In addition to a case of drill bits of various diameters other bits are actually screwdriver tips or sockets.  They make fast work installing or removing screws, nuts, and bolts. Many other attachments fit on a drill, including buffing and sanding wheels.  We can’t imagine not having this tool. Corded drills need to be plugged in, making them much less convenient. Cordless models come with rechargeable batteries that provide much power before needing to be put back on the charger.

Ear Muffs:  Loud noises lead to gradual hearing loss. We wear muffs whenever we are around loud machine noises – blenders, vacuum cleaner, lawn mower, power tools, and this time of year snow blowers!

Utility Knife:  Useful for cutting cardboard boxes and most anything else. Most hold spare sharp blades in the handle.

Adjustable Wrench:  These come in many sizes but we’ve found the eight inch models best for common household uses.  The tool adjusts to fit nuts of various sizes.

Level:   A small compact torpedo type level is amazingly useful for hanging pictures, or leveling a table or desk.

Hammer:  Hammers aren’t really obsolete. We use ours to drive nails but also to tap the screwdriver when prying or scraping and for many other tasks around the house. Years ago, Marion’s mom standing at a towering 4’9” willed her tiny hammer to us that works amazing well for light projects.

Scissors:  These aren’t office scissors but heavy duty shears that easily cut through heavy packaging materials, thin metal, and cardboard.

Black Tape:  Sometimes called electricians tape, this isn’t strictly a tool but it’s amazingly useful in holding things together or temporarily patching a dripping pipe or exposed wire.


Quality hand tools are a joy to use and so durable they can last for generations.  We are using wrenches, screwdrivers, and a hammer that are as functional today as they were to our grandfathers purchased them 80-some years ago. New quality hand tools can be purchased today – but beware! Many poorly made models are on the market and sold mostly in discount and big box stores. They are less expensive than good ones but aren’t as reliable and probably won’t be around to pass on to the next generation.

We buy our tools in two places – garage and estate sales that often include vintage hand tools. They may be a bit rusty, but we’ve bought quality tools for pennies. After refurbishing they are as good as new. When in the market for new tools we head for a specialty tool store. These are where professional carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and other craft people buy their tools and equipment.

Our favorite store in Cedar Rapids is Acme Tools. They only sell quality tools made by many manufacturers and we’ve never been unhappy with any tool purchased there.  In recent years we’ve been purchasing Milwaukee brand tools at Acme and have found them top notch.  “We only sell high quality tools, and our sales people are experts always happy to help customers select the right tool for their needs and show them how to safely use it,” said John Guidinger, General Manager.

Quality tools are more than just tools. They are well designed and crafted instruments that feel good in your hands and help making tasks a pleasant experience.

*Blogger Note:  These are independent, unpaid reviews.

Evacuation Advice While It’s Fresh In Your Mind

With an enormous flood surge coming down the Cedar River many homeowners were told to evacuate.  Twice in eight years we’ve helped families facing evacuation only to find them mentally frozen and unable to decide what to take and what to leave.

Evacuations are difficult. No one ever wants to be forced from their home, but everyone should realize the possibility that it can happen due to a wildfire, hurricane, flood, tornado, or some other disaster.

But back to our friends who needed to decide quickly what to take with them. Neither had made any prior plans and both seemed to want to save large items, like furniture. They were mentally confused and seemed unable to decide what they should quickly grab and easily fit into their car.

That’s when we stepped in. “Take the things that can’t easily be replaced and will be useful in the next few days,” we advised.   These include:

  • Critical papers: like insurance documents (life, home, health), financial items, check books, credit cards, birth certificates, mortgage papers
  • Many people have the most important information on their smart phone.Documents and contact information on an external hard drive. Grab them quickly and they’ll be an invaluable help during evacuation. Remember the chargers!
  • Cash in small bills.
  • Personal items needed for a few days and nights. Medicines. If time allows bring some clothing, flashlight, jackets, and toiletries.
  • Contact information. Phone numbers and addresses of family and friends, financial advisers, physicians, insurance agent, and anyone else you may need to contact.
  • Family photos and small mementos.
  • Pets if possible.

The Winding Pathways website includes several blogs that help homeowners prepare disaster bins  in advance of a crisis that help them survive for short periods without utilities and what to grab in an emergency. Click on “Preparedness” to see the blogs.

Enjoy “Awful” Weather

Enjoying Winter Outside

Dress in Layers, wear sturdy, insulted boots, and soak up Vitamin D with a brief “sun bath” even on cold winter days.

The woman giving our local television station’s weather report issued a dire warning. “It’s going to be below zero tomorrow with strong wind. It will feel like 30 below zero out. Stay inside”, she advised!

A gorgeous sunrise launched the next morning. It was a cold six below zero out but with only slight wind. Birds and squirrels arrived at the feeder, snatched a few seeds and flew or scampered off to enjoy breakfast in a sunny spot sheltered from the breeze.

Rarely do we have weather so bad that everyone must stay indoors. Certainly some days are more pleasant than others but at Winding Pathways we go outside, even if briefly, whether it’s frigid or broiling out -mainly to tend our animals. We mimic wildlife.

When August’s heat and humidity envelop Iowa we follow the pattern of the cottontail that lives in our yard. He and we are out in the evening and early morning. In mid-day we shun the sun and enjoy our maple’s cool shade.  On blustery winter days we layer up and explore our yard, even if for just a short time. Modern clothing is amazingly effective keeping us comfortable as long as we do like our chickadees and find a sunny place out of the wind. We don’t fool around with tornadoes. If one’s approaching we heed the weather caster’s advice and stay in the basement. But, as soon as it passes we’re out in the yard.

Take temperature extremes seriously. Unusually hot or cold weather can cause serious physical problems, even death, but a prudent person who takes precautions and uses common sense will enjoy fresh air even in extreme weather.


“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves,” John Muir.

When the Power Goes Out!

Lighting a lamp

Battery operated lamps (left) are the safest to use indoors in the aftermath of storms. Be cautious if using propane lamps danger of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.

On the evening of December 28, 2015 national news reported that thousands of people in the South are without power due to tornadoes that ripped through the region. The situation wasn’t much better in the Midwest where a howling blizzard also cut off electricity.

Many people are unprepared to ride out a week or ten days without electricity. Gathering a few emergency supplies and equipment can make enduring a storm much more comfortable. Every home should have them. While a preparedness kit  may not make it in a home destroyed by tornadoes, neighbors sharing their kits could be the difference between danger and safety.

Click on the PREPAREDNESS tab on this website to learn how to manage a power outage in relative comfort.