Tuesday, February 24, 2009
12:01 PM

Designing Farm Buildings to Withstand Snow and Ice

Heavy snowfalls and ice storms can lead to roof collapses or damage in poorly designed buildings according to Bob Schultheis, natural resource engineering specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

It often comes down to weight. Remember, a foot of snow is about equal in weight to an inch of ice, and an inch of ice weighs about five pounds per square foot. "Most farm building failures occur because the roof structure was under‑designed for the area's snow load, the bracing or fasteners were short‑changed during construction, or because wind-drifted snow distributes unevenly over roofs covered with ice,"  Schultheis said.

To help prevent future such building failures, Schultheis says a few basic design rules for agricultural buildings should be followed in southwest Missouri.

  1. First, roofs of farm buildings should be designed to support a minimum total load of 25 pounds per square foot. This figure includes the snow load and the dead load (weight of building materials). If cages, feeders, hoists or ceilings are hung from roof trusses, figure this extra weight into the design.
  2. The second item to remember is that the height of the eave greatly affects how big the poles, posts or metal frames must be to prevent wind-racking, how many anchor bolts are needed or how deep poles must be embedded in the ground, and how much extra bracing is needed between trusses, poles or frames.

    Usually a four to five foot embedment depth is recommended for wood poles and posts.  "Where rock prevents getting this depth, the posts should be encased in concrete. Failure to do so invites wind uplift or sidewall shift from excessive roof loads," Schultheis said.
  3. Third, keep in mind that buildings over 40 feet wide are generally less expensive to build with steel truss frames than with wood trusses. Wood, however, is more forgiving for short periods of time under excessive loads, and may withstand a 200 to 400 percent overload for two to three days without failure.

    A wood roof will give you audible advance notice of failure by screeching of nails and sounds of wood splintering. Steel roofs, on the other hand, usually fail when the design load is reached and without any advance notice," Schultheis said.
  4. And finally, weak designs often show themselves with a dip or sag in a roofline or beam, or a leaning sidewall. Adding 2 x 6 knee braces to posts and trusses, tying opposing walls together with cables and turnbuckles, sistering larger joists to existing ones, or adding extra support posts under long beam spans are just a few ways of beefing up some of these weaker buildings.

For anyone considering construction of a post-frame building, Schultheis recommends NRAES-1 Post-Frame Building Handbook, which is available from Extension Publications by calling 1-800-292-0969.

Collapsed Buildings Prove Snow Can “Weigh” Down a Roof

Many producers make the mistake of not being concerned about roof failures until after the building collapses according to Ed Browning, natural resource engineering specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

“Such was the case in the late 1980’s when several southwest Missouri poultry buildings folded. In some cases their failure may not have been entirely caused by the snow load, but it was certainly a major contributor,” said Browning.

According to Browning, snow loads will vary according to the amount of water equivalency a snow carries at the time.

For example, in one location during that 1980’s snowstorm, there was 12 inches of snow recorded that was equivalent to 3.2 inches of water. In another location, 30 miles away, during the same snow event, a 14-inch snow was recorded equivalent to about 1.6 inches of water.

A volume of water 12 by 12 inches that is one inch deep weighs a little over five pounds. The 3.2 inches of water equivalency recorded would weigh nearly 17 pounds.

Recommendations for snow load design have changed since that late 1980’s storm.

“Today we would suggest a minimum of 25 pound roof load capacity. It raises the cost of the building, but on the other hand it may prevent replacement costs,” said Browning.

For anyone considering construction of a post-frame building, Browning recommends NRAES-1 Post-Frame Building Handbook, available from Extension Publications at 800-292-0969.


Take Care Using Chain Saws during Storm Recovery Work


Homeowners or disaster and storm recovery volunteers who use chain saws to cut or trim trees should use extreme caution to prevent injuries.


"In the hands of a careless, inexperienced or tired operator, a chain saw can be very hazardous. Injuries from a chain saw are usually quite serious,” said Bob Schultheis, natural resource engineering specialist, University of Missouri Extension.


More than 40,000 people require hospital treatment each year for chain-saw-related accidents, according to the U.S. Product Safety Commission.


To reduce risk of injury, select a saw that fits the project and is balanced and has safety features.  It is also a good idea to read the operating manual.


“One of biggest dangers in operating a chain saw is kickback. Kickback occurs when the nose of the guide bar strikes another object. It can result in severe upper body, neck or facial injuries or death. This contact may cause a lightning-fast reverse action of the guide bar back toward the operator," Schultheis said.


While the smaller consumer chain saws must come equipped with a low-kickback (or safety) chain when purchased, this is no guarantee that kickbacks will not occur according to Schultheis.


Be sure to match the length of the saw's guide bar to the type of job you expect to do most often. Do not attempt to cut material that is larger than the guide bar you choose.


A guide bar 8 to 14 inches long is good for trimming limbs, cutting small logs and felling small trees. Mid-weight saws with 14- to 20-inch guide bars are used to cut logs and for felling small-to-medium-diameter trees. Heavyweight saws with guide bars longer than 20 inches are for professional use and are not recommended for consumers.


Occasional saw operators as well as professionals should wear protective clothing like safety glasses, earplugs, high-top shoes, gloves and hard hats.


For more information on chain saw safety and use, contact the MU Extension center nearest you and ask for guide sheet 1959, "Basic Chain Saw Safety and Use," and guide sheet 1958, "Felling, Bucking and Limbing Trees,” or obtain them online at extension.missouri.edu.



For Safe Skating, How Thick Does Ice Need to be?


Recent sub-freezing weather in the Ozarks has some folks anxious to get out the ice skates.


But how thick does the ice need to be for safe skating? Four inches is the most common suggestion, according to Charles (Ed) Browning, natural resource engineering specialist, University of Missouri Extension.


“Ice is probably never 100 percent safe. There are a lot of variables that can affect its strength besides thickness,” said Browning.


For example, wind can impact ice formation. Light winds speed up ice formation but strong winds force water from beneath the ice and can decay the edges.


“Always check the ice before going out on it. Be aware that ice thickness and strength can vary from one location to another,” said Browning.


It is also important to watch for slush. It means the ice is no longer freezing from the bottom and is weakening.


Other suggestions about ice thickness are considered by many to be common sense.


For example, snow is an insulator.  It can keep the ice protected from thawing, but it can also prevent it from freezing.  Snow cover also hides cracks in the ice and weaker areas. 


Water depth also affects ice thickness and the speed at which the ice forms.  Deeper water tends to stay warmer longer.


“So, that means that as you move from the edge of a water body toward the deeper water, ice may become thinner,” said Browning.        


Ice that has melted and then refrozen is weaker than new ice because the crystal structure has changed. Ice formed over running water (like a river) will be about 15 percent weaker than ice formed over standing water.


If several people are skating on the ice at the same time, Browning says it is important to spread out. It is also important to never let children go unsupervised to skate on ice formed over a water impoundment or stream. 


“It is also a good idea to have a rope, ladder or pole nearby that could be passed to a victim in the event of an emergency,” said Browning.


Browning says he has also been asked about the thickness needed for ATVs. Five inches is the recommended minimum thickness of ice needed to support snowmobiles and ATVs.




Publications Offer Guidance for Owner’s of Ice Ravaged Trees


Southwest Missouri, as well as other parts of the state, have been hit hard by recent ice storms.


To Gaylord Moore, horticulture specialist with University of Missouri Extension, most of the immediate questions coming into the Greene County Extension Center seem to be about trees.


“The ice really did a lot of damage in this area to trees. Extension and the Missouri Department of Conservation both have guides and other useful information that should help folks make some decisions as what to do with damaged trees,” said Moore.



Tree care after storms: http://www.mdc.mo.gov/documents/forest/health/tree_storm.pdf

Basic pruning guidelines: http://www.mdc.mo.gov/documents/forest/pruning_guide.pdf



These guides are available at extension.missouri.edu in the publications section of the website or any local MU Extension office: “Pruning and Care of Shade Trees (G6866),” “Pruning Ornamental Shrubs (G6870),” and “Selecting Landscape Plants: Shade Trees (G6800).”



Ice Storm a Reminder to Have Emergency Supply Kit


The great ice storm of 2007 is past by the memory of needing emergency supplies during that time is fresh on the mind of many.


That is why Dr. Gordon Carriker, an agriculture business specialist with University of Missouri Extension and coordinater of Extension’s emergency response team in southwest Missouri, says now is a great time to check on and update your family emergency supply kit. “Once you have an emergency kit together, re-check it at least once a year and update the food, water and other things. Making sure these things are in your family’s kit will make everyone better prepared for those emergencies that can occur anytime,” said Carriker.


For starters, every kit needs water, food, a first aid kit, tools and supplies, clothing and bedding and special items. “Plan to store lightweight foods that need no preparation or refrigeration. When buying items for the kit, make sure there are enough items for at least a three day supply and that you get items that family members enjoy,” said Carriker. 


Recommended foods to include are ready-to-eat canned meats, soups, fruits, and vegetables; high-energy foods, such as peanut butter, crackers, nuts, health food bars and trail mix; comfort foods, such as hard candy or other sweets; dried foods, such as raisins, apricots, jerky, potato flakes, powdered milk; and prepackaged beverages.


Most of these food items should be replaced yearly, although powdered milk, dried fruit, crackers and potato flakes generally last only six months. Some foods maybe stored indefinitely, such as vegetable oils, baking powder, instant coffee, tea or cocoa, salt, white rice, dried pasta, and noncarbonated soft drinks.


It is also a good idea to set aside at least a three day supply of water per person (allow about one gallon of water per person, per day).


For information on putting together an emergency supply kit, download the “Family Disaster Planning Kit” online at http://extension.missouri.edu/swregion/news/disasters/startpage.shtml.



Comfort at Home:
Relearning Ways to Stay Warm


Living in the climate controlled comfort of modern homes and apartments, Americans quickly forget how the forces of nature can impact our lives.


“But recently, nature seems to be getting our attention through our utility bills and when we seek shelter from a storm,” said Jeff Barber, housing and environmental design specialist, University of Missouri Extension. “These factors make this a good time to remember past lessons about staying warm and how we might apply them to our homes and lifestyles.”


?Get out of the wind:  Finding and stopping drafts can have rapid results in increasing comfort. “The use of movable insulating shutters, weather stripping and even plastic sheeting can keep the cold air of leaky doors and widows out of our interior climate,” said Barber.


?Bundle up to keep warm: Verifying that a home has a minimum of 12 inches or R-30 in the attic is a quick and relatively low cost way to realize warmth. 


Many homes built before the late 1940’s may have walls that are not insulated. Wall insulation should be a minimum of R-19 but is difficult to increase without significant work and cost. “By wearing layered clothing, fashionable stocking caps, blankets and shawls one can quickly find comfort that may be too expensive to buy with our furnace,” said Barber.


?Warm up with the sun: By opening drapes and shades on south facing widows during sunny days, homeowners can use the abundantly free energy of the sun to warm their homes.  “The use of insulating curtains or shutters at night can help us retain this wonderful warming,” said Barber.


?When all else fails, build a fire: “This can seem like a huge step backward for many that have been lured to the luxury of converting a fireplace with gas logs,” said Barber.

         The prospect of buying wood, stacking it, carrying it inside and dealing with the mess can be overwhelming.  But the good news is that the fireplace industry has been very responsive to the “baby boomer” consumer by developing pellets and grain stoves.   “Just remember that if you choose to find warmth by the fireplace that annual flue inspections and cleaning must be budgeted. Failure to do so can be disastrous,” said Barber.



Remedies Exist for Trees Wounded by Ice Storm


The ice storms that recently came through southwest Missouri left many trees with broken branches and wounds. Repair may be in order to keep these trees healthy and less susceptible to disease and insects according to Tim Schnakenberg, agronomy specialist, University of Missouri Extension."Most of the wounds on these trees will be from limbs that broke and splintered as they fell.  The broken limbs high in the trees may require professional help but the lower limbs that are more accessible will require care to prune off splintered stubs," said Schnakenberg.


If a large portion of the limb is still attached to a main branch or trunk, cutting that heavy limb away a foot or two from the crotch will insure that no major splintering occurs when the limb falls.  Schnakenberg recommends making a shallow cut on the underside of the limb a foot or two from the trunk to keep the bark from tearing when it falls, then cut it off on the top side 2 to 3 inches beyond the undercut.  The stub that is left should be cut flush and as close to the main branch or trunk as possible.  "Be very aware of overhead power utility lines.  If the branches are touching these lines, call your utility company.  They can address the problem after full service in the area has been restored and cleanup is complete," said Schnakenberg.


Tree wounds less than one inch in diameter will heal quick enough to warrant no additional treatment.  Larger wounds can be treated with a tree wound dressing or pruning paint to protect the tree while healing and prevent the formation of a cavity. Research has shown that these applications probably do not increase the rate of healing but may prevent drying out and provide some cosmetic effects.


If damaged trees are not repaired, or if they have been repaired improperly, a cavity may develop which could shorten the life of the tree.


"When pruning a damaged tree, be sure it is cut flush so there is no way for water to stand in an open pocket of the tree.  If a large cavity exists, it may require flashing or tin to keep rain from filling the cavity with water," said Schnakenberg.


After bitter cold, outdoor workers should be aware of hypothermia during warm spells

 While outdoor workers may be aware of being susceptible to hypothermia during the bitter winter cold, they shouldn’t let down their guard as the temperatures rise and a thaw occurs. “People often think that hypothermia can occur when someone is out in very cold weather or perhaps has fallen through ice into freezing water,” said Karen Funkenbusch, University of Missouri agricultural safety specialist.

But outdoor workers should be aware that hypothermia can occur at much warmer temperatures – even 50 or 60 degrees – particularly in wet, windy conditions, she said. “Farmers or others working outdoors for extended periods of time should realize that they are in fact susceptible to hypothermia during such thaws,” she said. “They should be aware of the symptoms of hypothermia and how to treat it quickly.”

Hypothermia is the loss of body heat due to prolonged exposure to cold. Loss of body heat is more rapid when a person is wet with sweat or from working in a damp environment. “Contact with water can bring on hypothermia even faster because water cools body temperature 25 to 30 times faster than air,” she said.

First symptoms include uncontrollable shivering and feeling of cold. Victims may become confused or disoriented, a danger when working around machinery or animals. Other symptoms may include slow or irregular speech, shallow or very slow breathing, slow pulse and cold, pale skin. “You should seek warm shelter immediately if you experience heavy shivering, severe fatigue, drowsiness or euphoria,” Funkenbusch said. “Older workers need to be extra alert about the effects of cold stress.”

Dress for the cold to prevent hypothermia, she said. Wear at least three layers of clothing. Layered clothing creates air pockets that help retain body heat.

Avoid working alone. Take extra work breaks when needed.

Keep energy levels up and prevent dehydration by consuming warm, sweet caffeine-free drinks or soup. Avoid alcohol, since hypothermia commonly occurs with alcohol abuse.

It is important to act quickly if you or someone around you suffers hypothermia. Remove wet clothes as soon as possible and replace with dry blankets or clothing. Don’t use direct heat or hot water to warm the victim. You can place warm material (sleeping bags or hot water bottles wrapped in a towel, for example) around a victim, covering the body, neck and head, but not the face.

Avoid rough handling; it might cause cardiac arrest. Do not massage the skin. Conscious victims can be given hot, sweet liquids to drink.

Moderate-to-severe cases of hypothermia require immediate medical attention. Send for expert help. Hospitalization is essential for severe hypothermia cases.




So, the Power Has Been Off, Now What about the Food?


When freezers or refrigerators are off for several hours – no matter the reason -- the food safety rules about what to keep or toss are the same according to Terry Egan, nutrition specialist with University of Missouri Extension.


“The bottom line is that if power has been off for several days, all of the food in the refrigerator should be thrown away. If people have kept their food outside at a temperature of 40 degrees or below, that food may be safe,” said Egan.


Refrigerators and freezers also need to be washed thoroughly before putting food back in them. Egan says to first wash with plain water, then warm water and dish soap.


“It is also a good idea to sanitize with a solution of 1 teaspoon bleach in 1 quart of water.  Do not use more bleach because it can be dangerous or toxic. Be sure to also leave the refrigerator or freezer door open until it dries,” said Egan.



The basic guide is if the food still has ice crystals inside it, it can be refrozen. Egan suggests taking a permanent marker or crayon and mark each package in the freezer with an “X” indicating it was partially thawed. Any items, which do not have ice crystals, should be tossed.

What if you don’t know how thawed the food items were before the freezer came back on?


“If you notice blood on neighboring packages or in the bottom of the freezer, this indicts advanced thawing. At this point, since we are dealing with an unknown, the rule is if in doubt, throw it out,” said Egan.



What about the refrigerator? Since food in a refrigerator should be kept at about 40 degrees or below during normal operation, two hours without power will mean tossing some food out.

“Tossing is the hardest thing to do. But when we are in doubt, we need to throw out,” said Egan.



According to Egan, all the following foods need to be tossed if kept more than two hours above 40 degrees: raw or cooked meat, poultry, fish; hard cooked or cracked eggs; egg substitutes; milk, cream yogurt or soft cheese; casseroles, stews or soups; lunch meats and hot dogs; creamy-based salad dressings; custard, chiffon or cheese pies; cream-filled pastries and cookie dough.


The condiments in the refrigerator door -- like opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce and horseradish -- need to be tossed if they were held above 50 degrees for more than eight hours.


The following refrigerated foods should keep at room temperature a few days: butter, margarine, fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fruits and coconut, opened jars of salad dressing (except mayonnaise types), peanut butter, jelly, relish, taco sauce, barbecue sauce, mustard, ketchup and olives, hard and processed cheeses, fruit juices, fresh herbs and spices, flour and nuts, fruit pies, bread, rolls, cakes and muffins.


Toss any of these items if they turn moldy or have an unusual odor.



Publications Help Families Weather Financial Difficulties


No amount of money or planning can guarantee your family will not go through a disaster. A disaster can come in many forms and the impact on your family (both financial and emotional) can vary widely.


“Natural disasters, like ice storms, can all lead to a significant drop in family income. You may begin feeling financial stress because of your situation. However, with some planning you can take control of your finances,” said Janet LaFon, family financial education specialist, University of Missouri Extension.


LaFon recommends families impacted by the recent storm should obtain and read the “When Your Income Drops” series of guide sheets from extension.


Contact the MU Extension center nearest you, or go on line to http://extension.missouri.edu/, and request the following guide sheets.


  • GH3510, “When Your Income Drops: Don't Panic, Take Control”

  • GH3517, “When Your Income Drops: Sharpen Survival Skills”

  • GH3516, “When Your Income Drops: Control Stress”

  • GH3514, “When Your Income Drops: Plan to Pay Creditors and Protect 
       Family Welfare”

  • GH3515, “When Your Income Drops: Maintain Quality of Life”

  • GH3511, “When Your Income Drops: Take Stock of Family Resources”


Take Steps to Avoid Fraud Following Disaster


The consumer who is to trusting, who does not ask detailed questions, who does not check references and information for accuracy, and who make decisions without careful consideration is vulnerable to con artists.


Annette FitzGerald, a family financial education specialist with University of Missouri Extension, offers these guidelines to help area families from being conned.


  • Realize first that nothing is free. It is almost impossible to get something for nothing.
  • Avoid putting yourself in situations where you are setting yourself up to be deceived. Don’t listen to sales pitches on the telephone or go to motel rooms to hear sales pitches. Don’t let unknown door-to-door salespeople into your home.
  • Try not to be overly sympathetic to sales representatives. This will help you avoid becoming a victim of a hard-luck-story types of sales tactic.
  • Be careful about buying things over the telephone. A useful guideline is not to buy anything over the phone unless you initiated the call or know the caller. Ask telephone solicitors to mail information rather than discussing it over the phone. You can call back if you’re interested after reviewing the information.
  • Never give credit card, checking account, or social security numbers for identification or verification purposes.
  • Never send cash. Don’t send money orders or checks to a post office box unless you are sure about the company’s reputation, have its street address, and know about the product.
  • Don’t send money by a courier service that picks up at your home or work place.
  • Be aware that high-pressure sales tactics are a warning. Some sellers push hard because they earn commission or want to win a contest. Even if not dishonest, they do not have your best interests in mind.
  • Do not make quick decisions about buying or investing. Read the fine print. Get help from an important third person.
  • Don’t assume you always have three days to cancel a transaction or that you can always get out of a contract.
  • Watch out for planted people posing as real users. When you check references you can use on-line forums, news groups, etc. to talk to other customers about the product and company.

"Remember, to avoid being conned, you need to ask questions and take time in making a decision about a product," said FitzGerald.


To report fraud, contact the Missouri Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-392-8222.


Stress Reduction Tips For After the Storm


People who have suffered losses during the recent ice storm will experience stress.


The loss may be as great as a person, a home or a familiar place, or as minor as a change of routine or even a favorite tree. Any of these losses can create stress according to Jinny Hopp, human development specialist, University of Missouri Extension.


"Humans enjoy change that we control and resist change that we do not control," said Hopp.


The recent storms changed peoples’ lives.  As people react to these changes they may not sleep well, may not want to eat, they may be angry with everyone, or may avoid other people and activity according to Hopp.


There are some things people can do to reduce the stress they are feeling after the storms.


For example, helpful steps that Hopp recommends include focusing on what is important to your family, delegating some responsibilities to others and keeping a sense of humor.


"It is also important to invest in your health. Establish a daily routine, eat well, and sleep enough hours," said Hopp.


According to research, stress can be reduced if you first accept disappointments, grieve your losses and then begin to move forward. It is also stress reducing to accept outside help by taking advantage of emergency response assistance.


"Reduce tension with organization by doing one thing at a time, breaking a demanding project into manageable steps and keeping track of your commitments.  It is also important to live in the present and to not dwell on the past or worry about the future," said Hopp.


Other stress reducing ideas include letting go of anger in healthy ways (such as physical motion) and celebrating accomplishments as you get back to normal.


For more information on reducing stress, contact the MU Extension center nearest you and ask for guide sheet 6651, "Challenges and Choices: Stress Management."


Expert Says: Know Facts before Taking a Payday Loan to Help with Storm Damage or Recovery
As individuals and families work to recover from the recent ice storm many may be tempted to take advantage of a payday loan. But before doing that it is a good idea to know the facts according to Janet LaFon, a family financial education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

The number of businesses offering payday loans has grown dramatically. As a result, the process has become very easy. In most cases all you have to do is provide evidence that you are employed, present a valid identification and have a local checking account,” said LaFon.

To obtain a loan, the borrower writes a check that is post-dated for after their payday. The check is written for an amount larger than the amount of cash received as a loan. “The amount you receive is the loan, and the extra amount is the interest and fees. The business holds your check until your payday and then deposits it unless you renew the loan,” said LaFon.

This process involves paying any interest and fees due and agreeing to an additional fee which is something LaFon says borrowers need to educate themselves about. “Under the Truth in Lending Act, the cost of payday loans must be disclosed.  You must receive the finance charge and the annual percentage rate or APR in writing,” said LaFon. 

Are payday loans an option worth considering? Before you answer that question, look at these facts from a survey conducted by the Missouri Division of Finance in October 2002.

  • The total number of payday loans made by Missouri payday lenders between Oct. 1, 2001, and Sept.30, 2002, was more than 2 million.

  • The most frequently occurring loan amount was $200.

  • The most frequently occurring number of renewals was three.

  •  The most common APR was 391.07 percent ($15 per $100 for 14 days).  A number of lenders charged a dollar a day per $100 borrowed or 365 percent APR.  The highest rate being charged was 1022 percent and the lowest rate being charged was 152.31 percent.  That means the average APR was 413.48 percent.

  • Defaults totaled 6.15 percent of the number of loans made.

  • In Missouri, 616 lenders charged a "NSF" "not sufficient funds" fee, 155 charged a late fee and 10 collected origination fees.

  • There were 300 complaints filed against such lenders.


Time and Best Care Professional Key to Tree Survival

After the great ice storm of 2007 there will be many trees in southwest Missouri in need of pruning or weather-related damage assessment. When that is the case the services of an arborist may be required according to Gaylord Moore, a University of Missouri Extension horticulture specialist headquartered in Greene County. “Finding the correct professional to do the job is important for the best service and tree care,” said Moore. “Time and professional care are essential.”


Some decisions on which trees to keep or cut may be easy because of the extent of the damage. However, Moore encourages patience before taking drastic measures. “I’m seeing situations where removals will be necessary. At the same time, each situation needs to be carefully accessed before making that first, and possibly final, cut,” said Moore.

If the trees do not represent a hazard, Moore recommends taking the time necessary to be sure they receive proper care and attention. “Trees are amazingly resilient and in many situations with proper pruning, and corrective measures, they may recover,” said Moore.


What are some tips for selecting a professional to consult and perform work on trees? Moore recommends first checking the yellow pages and looking for certified arborists.

It is also a good idea to ask for local references of jobs the company or individual has done. When possible, have more than one certified arborist give estimates. “Price may be important, but reputable arborists have made investments in equipment and training. The arborist’s skill may be more important than a low bid,” said Moore.

Moore also has advice for those who want to do the work themselves. “If the tree is large, my advice is that you don’t do it yourself,” said Moore. “If you are pruning young or smaller trees, be sure you understand basic pruning guidelines and principles, like where and when to cut, before you begin.”


Sparing Use of Wood Ash in Garden Can Be Beneficial


After the artic blast most of southwest Missouri got during January lots of homeowners will have extra wood ash this year. If used sparingly, wood ashes left behind after burning wood for winter heat (in wood stoves, furnaces, and fireplaces) can benefit plants and gardens.   

"Wood ashes have about one percent phosphate and less than 10 percent potassium, but no nitrogen. They also contain about 25 percent calcium carbonate, a common liming material," said Gaylord Moore, horticulture specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

Because wood ash has a fine particle size, it reacts rapidly and blends completely into the soil.  Although small amounts of nutrients are applied with wood ash, the main effect is that of a liming agent. "Gardeners often question the value and safety of using wood ashes in the lawn, gardens and flower beds. Yes, you may use them, but use them sparingly.  Adding large amounts can do more harm than good," said Moore.

 It is also important when applying ashes to spread them evenly and avoid dumping them in one area. It is also a good idea to know your soil pH before adding the ashes (get a soil test).  Soils that are slightly acidic (pH 6.0 to 6.5), should not be harmed if 30 pounds of ashes per 1,000 square feet of garden area are applied. 

Moore also recommends working ashes into the upper six inches of the soil. "If your soil pH is 7.0 or higher, find another way of disposing of the ashes," said Moore.  According to Moore, it is also important to never apply wood ash to acid loving plants like potatoes, rhododendrons, azaleas or blueberries."

For more information on fertilizer, contact the nearest University of Missouri Extension Center and request G6955, “Improving Lawn and Landscape Soils,” or MP733, “Lawn and Garden Soil Test Interpretations and Fertilizer Recommendation Guide.”


Expert Says, “Be Sure to Review Operation and Maintenance Guide for Fireplace

Facing seasonally high energy prices this winter, many home dwellers will choose to burn firewood, wood pellets or corn to meet heating needs.

For those making this home heating choice, reviewing the equipment’s operation and maintenance is critical according to Jeff Barber, housing and environmental design specialist, University of Missouri Extension. “While using the fireplace or stove, the most important task is to get a complete burn. The key to this is the use of dry, well seasoned fuel and allowing enough combustion air. Research shows that smaller, hotter fires produce less smoke, resulting in reduced residue buildup in the flue or chimney,” said Barber.

Regular cleaning, inspection, and repair of the equipment, chimney and flue will help make this a safe option for heating the home. For additional safety, Barber says keeping a spark arresting flue cap on the chimney will prevent the collection of leaves, birds and other intruders while allowing smoke to flow freely. “The buildup of creosote is the greatest concern. When ignited, this highly combustible byproduct causes very hot and destructive chimney fires,” said Barber.

If a flue fire occurs, quick action can greatly reduce damage. “After attempting to smother the flame with a dry chemical fire extinguisher, call 911 or the fire department. Closing fireplace doors and air vents can keep the fire from breathing,” said Barber.

It is also a good idea to use seasoned wood (dryness is more important than hard versus soft wood) for a fire. Barber also suggests never add cardboard, wrapping paper, trash or Christmas trees to a fire that is already burning, and never using water on an extremely hot chimney fire.

“It is also important to remember that damaged sections should be replaced,” said Barber.

MU Extension has produced guide sheets on this topic that are available at county extension offices: G1730, “Wood Stoves and Their Installation,” G1732, “Chimneys for Wood Stoves,” and G1733, “Catalytic Combustors for Wood Burning Stoves and Furnaces.”

Carbon Monoxide Detectors Should be Replaced Every Five Years, MU Expert Says

Homeowners may be surprised to learn that they need to replace the carbon monoxide detector they bought just a few years ago."Carbon monoxide detectors are only good for about five years," said Michael Goldschmidt, a housing and environmental design specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Cold temperatures bring an increased risk for carbon monoxide poisoning as people turn up the heat. "One of the most common areas where carbon monoxide occurs is the furnace and the flue," Goldschmidt said.

Detectors use an electrochemical element to measure the carbon monoxide levels in the air. "After five years, the carbon monoxide detector can function improperly," he said. "It could ring when there isn't a high level of carbon monoxide or not ring when carbon monoxide levels are high."

Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms include headaches, tightness of chest, dizziness, fatigue, confusion and breathing difficulties. Severe exposure to carbon monoxide can cause brain damage and death, Goldschmidt said. 

Unintentional carbon dioxide poisoning results in about 2,100 deaths per year, according to researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, who believe more than half of those deaths could be prevented with carbon monoxide detectors.

Gas furnaces, as well as gas-powered water heaters, stoves and other appliances, generate small amounts of carbon monoxide as a byproduct of combustion. "If they are not working properly, they will produce large amounts" of the odorless, colorless gas, Goldschmidt said. "We recommend that you get the furnace checked every year."

Homeowners should install carbon monoxide detectors, which will sound an alarm when carbon monoxide levels are high, on each level of their house. Detectors should be placed outside of bedrooms, Goldschmidt said. "The room could have dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, and you would be exposed to dangerous levels before the detector rings," he said.

 Carbon monoxide detectors should have a battery back up and be tested monthly.  Detectors also should be tested after power outages. Those with a number read out should be reset before testing.

If a carbon monoxide detector goes off, get out immediately and then call the fire department.  "Even the time you take to open a window is enough to be exposed to dangerous levels," Goldschmidt said.

Prior to Using it is Important to Know Sizing and Safety Tips for Standby Power Generators

A standby power generator can be good insurance to keep critical facilities running, according Bob Schultheis, a natural resource engineering specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

If you plan to use a standby generator during power failures, Schultheis recommends first notifying the local electric utility company and then following the manufacturer's maintenance instructions for the generator. "The generator must be capable of providing adequate power at the correct voltage without putting occupants or utility workers at risk," said Schultheis.

Portable generators with 4- to 5-kilowatt ratings are the minimum size needed for a typical three-bedroom home. The more expensive units at this size run quieter, are more durable and have larger fuel tanks.

But whether it's a direct-connected engine-driven unit or one driven by a tractor power-take-off (PTO), make sure a double-pole, double-throw transfer switch is properly installed by a licensed electrician.

This switch disconnects the main power source from the standby generator and prevents electricity made by the generator from mistakenly flowing out onto utility lines where it could electrocute members of the repair crew. The switch must have the capacity to carry the total load of the farm or building it feeds, even though the generator has less capacity.

Generators are rated in kilowatts. One kilowatt equals 1,000 watts. If the nameplate has two-kilowatt ratings, the larger number is the ‘short-time overload capacity’ and the smaller is the ‘continuous-output rating’. "Electric motors draw three to five times more power at starting than when running under full load, so proper generator sizing is critical to avoid motor burnouts.  The ampere rating of equipment needing power can be converted to watts by multiplying its voltage by its amperage as given on the nameplate," said Schultheis.

To size automatic-start units, add the wattage of all motors connected to the generator and multiply this number by 3.5. Then add the wattage of all other connected equipment. To size manual‑start units, you need to know the starting wattage of your largest motor, then add the maximum running- and starting-wattage demand on the generator at any point in the system to get the required generator size.

For example, a 5-horsepower, 5,000-watt running-load motor has a starting wattage of 17,500 watts, so an 18 KW generator is needed to start the motor. For PTO-driven units, the tractor should have a horsepower rating at least twice the kilowatt capacity of the generator. A 15 KW generator requires at least a 30-horsepower tractor to drive it at full load.

Keep Your Food Safe during a Power Outage

One important thing to know is how to save as much food as possible when the electricity is off. 

The first key, according to Tammy Roberts, a nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension, is to keep the doors of the refrigerator closed as much as possible to keep the cool air inside. “Keep a thermometer in the refrigerator so you can monitor the temperature when you do open the door. Food is considered to be in the danger zone once the refrigerator temperature goes above 40 degrees (Fahrenheit),” said Roberts. Discard foods that have been above 40 degrees for more than two hours.

Protein-containing foods such as raw or cooked meat, poultry or seafood, dairy products, eggs and egg substitutes, and soft cheeses are most at risk for illness-causing bacteria growth.

Another option is to add dry ice to the freezer to maintain cold temperatures. Just keep in mind that dry ice is -216 degrees so it must be handled carefully (and with gloves). Roberts says to allow three pounds of dry ice per cubic foot of freezer space and to not let the dry ice come in direct contact with the food.  “If you have an upright freezer then dry ice should be placed on each shelf. If you have a large amount of empty space, fill the space with clean blankets or towels to decrease circulation. Air circulation speeds up dissipation of dry ice,” said Roberts.

Generally, food can stay frozen in the freezer one to three days without electricity. Foods in the freezer can be re-frozen if they still have ice crystals present. “When you re-freeze those foods, move them to the top to be used first. Thawed foods that have not reached danger zone temperatures can be cooked and then frozen,” said Roberts.

Preparing for Winter Storms

Preparing a Disaster Supplies Kit

Preparing Vehicles for Winter Weather

Sizing & Safety Tips for Standby Power Generators Stalled ... but Safe (North Dakota State Univ.)

General Safety

Winter Safety After an Ice Storm (SEMA)

Safe Shoveling Tips Heat Safely with Alternative Fuel Heating Systems (North Dakota State Univ.)

Beware! Static Electricity Can Cause Gas pump Fires! (.pdf format)

Power Outages - What to Do When the Power is Off (.pdf format)

Recognizing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning 

Safety Tips For Wood Burning Stove Users (.pdf format)

Your Family Disaster Plan Can Keep You Snug and Safe! (.pdf format)

Safety Tips for Stand-by Power Generators Electrical/Heating Equipment Safety (CPSC)

Electrical Systems & Appliances 

Family, Food & Water

Safe Drinking Water in an Emergency 

Check, Disinfect Wells after Disaster  

Dehydration in the Winter: Elderly At Risk

When the Power Goes Out  

Preparing Meals Safely 

Handling Food When the Power Goes Off (Univ. of N. Dakota)

Preparing Food During a Power Failure (Univ. of Illinois)

Salvage Food Safely  

"Cover a Cough and Clean your Hands” Can Prevent the Spread of Flu, Colds (.pdf format)

Emergency Food & Water, Use Foods You Have in Your Pantry (.pdf format)

Messages for helping children during a time of crisis 

Financial Management

How to Prevent Being Conned

When Your Income Drops, Take Control 

Financial Recovery and Risk Management Spanish

Dealing with Disaster: Be Watchful of Con Artists/Cuídese de los estafadores (Univ. of California)

Home, Yard & Farm

Caring for Livestock During a Disaster (Colorado State Univ.)

Assessing Damage & Protecting Roofs (Ext. Disaster Information Handbook)

Check Sewer Vents for Ice Accumulation (North Dakota State Univ.) Spanish

Dealing with Disaster: Getting your Home Repaired/Las reparaciones a su hogar después de un desastre   (Univ. of California) 

Repairing Storm Damage to Trees (Michigan State Univ.)

Protect Your Property From a Winter Storm (.pdf format)

Trees, Lawn and Garden Disaster Recovery (Louisiana State Univ.)

Spanish-Language Publications

Dealing with Disaster: Getting your Home Repaired/Las reparaciones a su hogar después de un desastre   (Univ. of California) Spanish

Dealing with Disaster: Be Watchful of Con Artists/Cuídese de los estafadores (Univ. of California) Spanish

Preparing a Disaster Supplies Kit

Preparing Vehicles for Winter Weather

Sizing & Safety Tips for Standby Power Generators Stalled ... but Safe (North Dakota State Univ.)
Information on winter driving, what to do when you're stranded, wind-chill factor, dressing for the weather

University Outreach and Extension David Reinbott, reinbottd@missouri.edu
Agriculture Business Specialist
Last modified: February 24, 2009