Favorite Stocking Stuffers

Stocking Stuffers

Stocking stuffers that will see use year round.

As the rush for Holiday gifts gets into full swing, we sometimes wonder how to “fill” those stockings with meaningful, fun and inexpensive stuffers.  Here are some of Winding Pathways favorite items to be prepared for long dark nights and to simply enjoy cozy winter evenings.

Tops for us are flashlights.  I once overheard women talking about how when the power went off one summer night they could not find their way around their own home and didn’t know where their flashlights were.  Wow!

While we are adept at and comfortable with finding our way around our home, yard and even motel rooms in the dark, we always have a flashlight with us to use as needed.

Our advice is: First, learn your home, especially in the dark. Good night vision is important. Second, have handy a variety of flashlights and sizes.  In the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, den, and basement. We have small ones at the bedside, backpacker headlamps that fit over stocking caps and large handheld spotlights in strategic places. Remember to check batteries and have extras where you can get them easily.

We are outside a lot, so we like to have plenty of hand warmers with us.  Several brands are available and some last longer than others.  Some are made to fit into boots and tuck on your back. Anyone who works outside will appreciate a bunch of these. For the winter football fans, you can’t beat the warmers. The paper and mail carriers in your life will surely give a nod of thanks for receiving some warmers. And, those hardy winter bicyclists in your family will love you for including warmers in the stocking.

Because some folks enjoy feeding birds, birdseed and feeders are always great gifts.  Use caution and buy quality seed and feeders.  You will waste money and attract scavengers if you buy cheap seed loaded with milo, the small reddish seeds in a mix.  So, go to a farm store or specialty bird feeding store for higher quality seed and feeders.

A totally practical gift is a weather radio that can be plugged in, run by batteries, or even be powered by a crank.  Just Google “weather radio” and choose the one that fits your needs best. With winter upon us, get one!

Of course, many of us like to simply snuggle down on “long winter nights” and read a book.  Bookstores are alive with exciting and intriguing books for winter reading. One we have discovered and pored over is One Square Inch of Silence by Gordon Hempton and John Grossmann.

Preparing for Winter

Fall is a perfect season to be outdoors. We look forward to the delicate lace of the first frost on our russet oak leaves.

When outside be sure to look up. You might catch sight of a raptor, perhaps even an eagle, way up high catching thermals and moving south ahead of the cold.

Birds migrate, reptiles hibernate, and plants go dormant but people carry on through winter. Fall is the best season to prepare for the blizzards and cold wind to come.

A good friend, Jean Perkins, who is a realtor and helped us find and buy Winding Pathways in 2010, has a list of tips on the Skogman Realty website about how to prepare for the cold season. We’re passing it on and encourage all our Winding Pathways visitors to prepare their home so it’s comfortable and safe in the cold months. Then, they can enjoy all types of weather and seasons.


Hurricane Harvey’s Lesson

Images in the nightly news from Houston during and after Hurricane Harvey are heartbreaking. It will take years for flooded communities and families to recover.

Harvey reminds us that disasters can happen anywhere at any time. Some are relatively predictable. For example, tornadoes and hurricanes are most likely to hit certain places during parts of the year.

Other disasters are impossible to predict. We remember that years ago a worker accidentally set a fire that burned an enormous quantity of Styrofoam insulation in the roof of a sewer building near our home. Clouds of toxic smoke billowed out, and the mayor ordered an immediate evacuation.

Fortunately, we were prepared. Within fifteen minutes we loaded our survival bin, sleeping bags, a tent, drinking water and our two young kids in the car. An hour later we were camped well away from the smoke.The next day the fire was out, the air clean, and we were home.

Everyone should make emergency plans and acquire emergency items in case of a disaster that shuts down local stores and utilities or forces an evacuation.

Click on the Preparedness Section of windingpathways.com for specific tips on how to survive disasters and a list of suggested items to stock in a disaster kit.

Sterno – Great for Emergencies

At Winding Pathways we wrote periodically about preparedness.  Usually, it’s related to the potential for seasonal weather-related events. Almost every day someone somewhere suffers damage from a tornado, hurricane, ice storm, blizzard or some other natural disaster.  Sometimes we simply discover an alternative use for emergency equipment. Sterno is one! It’s as simple as a quick way to heat water for tea or coffee while working in the cabin or out camping.

We all realize that when the power goes off it’s helpful to have back up lighting and cooking equipment on hand. Propane and liquid gas stoves designed for camping are ideal for emergencies when the power goes off, but they are pricey.  A lower cost alternative is a “Sterno” stove or equivalent. These are inexpensive lightweight stoves that fold flat and take almost no storage space. They are sold in big box stores that stock camping equipment.

The common fuel for these stoves is “Sterno”, a gel made from alcohol and contained in a small aluminum cup. You pry off the lid, stick the fuel cup in the stove, light it, and it’s ready for cooking. Sterno stoves cook slowly.  They’re not the best for elaborate cooking but are perfectly suited for a few days of light meal preparation until the power comes back on.

We’ve found that fuel cans sold in restaurant supply stores and called “Chafing Fuel” are less expensive than buying fuel in a camping store. These are mostly used by caterers for keeping food warm at buffets, and they work great for emergency cooking, too!  For information go to Sterno Products.

Please note that Winding Pathways has no connection with the Sterno Company. We like their products but have not received money or materials from them.  

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.