Preparedness Corner
November 2003
By Paul Vircsik

Hi Neighbors,

The temps are starting to lower at night and with the occasional rain we could get some ice on the roads.  The first snow should be on time, right after Halloween.  Colder weather always brings a change of cloths and a change of habits.  Here are two for your morning coffee.

The fireplace or wood stove gets used more often now and the smell of burning wood wafts through the air around the ranch.  If you have been on the ranch for 5 years or more and have never cleaned the flue of your chimney at least check it.  Chimney fires cause higher temperatures than normal to be around the structural members of your home.  Why? Because you have a fire where it shouldn’t be.  What causes this? Burning soft woods and paper.  That thick smoke you see coming out where Santa goes in is unburned fuel or in my world a “dirty burn”.  Soft woods do not generate sufficient heat to totally consume itself and the resulting smoke is filled with unburned particles of said wood.  What you want to see coming out of that hole are heat waves.  The cleaner the better.  Hard woods help and having a catalytic wafer in the flue also helps to burn the residual particles as they pass the super heated screen.  Additionally it’s a good idea to remove all the summer stuff from around the firebox that accumulated from warm weather decorating.  Side note: “I swear if I had the money I would hire someone to decorate for each season and holiday.  And then build another garage to hold all the off-season fare.” Stacking the wood nearer the house sounds like cheating the wet sock patrol, but only stack a couple of days worth.  No use inviting the bugs in and moving the dried flammable forest next to the house during the dry windy days.  Remember embers are embers after all.

Arriving with the wet, possibly icy and always muddy, roads are the designer skid patterns.  The tell tale extra wide tracks that do not follow the normal rear paws laid down in the front paw tracks means two things.  Excessive speed or driving too fast for conditions.  I have also heard some of my neighbors say they like to lower their tire pressure during the dry road seasons to absorb the sharpness of the rocks.  While this may work for dry roads, doing so in the wet is like wearing tennis shoes and playing ice hockey.  You float.  Air up those babies to get down into the mud and onto the hard pack for traction.  Or stay home toss another log onto the fire, roast a few marshmallows and wait until the roads dry up.  In Colorado, oh around noon ought to do it.  For my faithful readers this next sentence will sound familiar.  When the roads just start getting wet and icy, try out your sea legs.  Wait until you are motoring down a nice flat patch with no drop offs on either side and wiggle the wheel.  See how it feels to slightly skid.  Steer into the skid to control the outofcontrolness (new word).  Now try it again.  Like I tell my firefighters, practice, practice, practice.  Now don’t that feel like an E ticket ride.  Better to get the feeling now under a controlled environment than to remember the practice word at 40 mph sliding down Cottonwood.  Snow banks feel so much better when you are making angels than when becoming one.

So, that’s it for this month.  For those of you wanting more inspiration, go to the archived articles and read the previous year’s columns for this time period.  That should saturate your brain cells for a while.

See you all soon,

Meet the author: Read about Paul Vircsik's background