The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Jan. 21: SNOWSHOEING IN THE WINTER: TIPS TO GET STARTED

 

SNOWSHOEING IN THE WINTER: TIPS TO GET STARTED

Snowshoes have come a long way since their origins some 7,000 years ago. Back then, it’s safe to guess that snowshoeing was not considered a leisure winter sport.

In fact, without even researching it much, I can safely wager that snowshoes were made so that people could survive winter. You know: head out, forage for food, return home with a dead animal—also known as “dinner for the family.”

 

Times have changed. And so have snowshoes.

Originally, snowshoes were made from wood and rawhide. Current-day versions using those materials are still available to buy, as are authentic antique versions that are often found adorning the walls of vacation ski homes. However, the rapid growth of snowshoeing as a sport in the 1990s was due to modern versions of snowshoes made with aluminum or stainless steel frames and nylon, plastic, or polypropylene decking. They are light and relatively inexpensive.

 

Old versus new snowshoes!

I bought a pair of Tubbs snowshoes in the late 1990s. Except for adjusting the straps or bindings to fit whichever pair of boots (waterproof and insulated work best) I am wearing, they are quite simple to use. Newer versions have even easier to adjust bindings and straps. In fact, if you are reasonably fit and feel comfortable walking, then you should have an easy time learning to snowshoe!

BEST SNOWSHOE EQUIPMENT

• One pair of snowshoes (many outdoor shops rent equipment and offer lessons)

• Proper outdoor clothing

• Sturdy winter boots (or specialty snowshoe boots)

• One pair of ski poles or trekking poles (optional)

• Gaiters (optional)

• Headlamp (for nighttime snowshoeing)

The best way to learn a new sport is from a professional instructor, and many places that rent or sell snowshoes offer short lessons.

SNOWSHOEING TIPS & TECHNIQUES

Here’s what to keep in mind on your first day out:

• Practice on a flat snowy surface without ice. Most modern snowshoes have crampons on the bottom. These crampons work best in fluffy snow and aren’t as easy to use on icy steep slopes, especially going downhill. That’s just something to keep in mind as you are experimenting with this new sport.

• “Put one foot in front of the other.” The movement pattern is the same as walking. Lift your left foot, bending at the knee so that the snowshoe comes off the snowy surface, and take a step. Repeat this with your right foot. That’s it—just like walking, except that you have much larger “shoes” that hinge away from your foot as you lift your foot. Gaiters are also optional for snowshoeing. If the snow is very light and not packed down, and very deep, gaiters will help to protect your boots and the bottom of your snow pants from snow getting inside. In most instances, snowshoes do a great job of keeping you above the snow, and you will not need gaiters.

• Use poles. Though poles are optional, they give you two more points of balance while snowshoeing. I prefer trekking poles that are adjustable so I that can dial in the perfect pole length. The arm motions using poles are the same as when you walk and should feel natural. Simultaneously, step with your left leg and swing your right pole forward with a light flick of the wrist to put the pole basket in front of you, then plant the pole. In this case, your balance is moving from your right foot to your left foot and right pole, as your momentum moves forward. That’s as much physics as I can share with you. Just remember: It feels like walking.

• Look ahead, not straight down at your shiny new snowshoes. There are two reasons you should look ahead. The first: You are outside and it’s a beautiful winter wonderland. Take in the sights, sounds and smells. The second: Looking ahead improves your balance.

Snowshoeing is a great sport for all ages. You can head out on wooded adventures or across a frozen lake.

And that optional headlamp I mentioned in the equipment list above? If you ever venture out for a nighttime snowshoe under a full Moon, you might get hooked on snowshoeing just like I did.

 

During the winter months, Heather Atwell blogs about outdoor activities for Almanac.com. The offspring of parents who met in the lift line at Vermont’s Stowe Mountain, Heather has skied since she could walk. She’s a fully certified PSIA instructor who knows New England ski areas from her four years working for Ski Vermont and from her lifelong love of the sport. Heather’s recipe for winter happiness: Mix fresh snow and a little outdoor adventure.

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The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Jan. 21: WINTER EXERCISE: NO EXCUSES

 

WINTER EXERCISE: NO EXCUSES

Motivation flagging? Live too far from a gym? No room in the house for exercise equipment? Not enough light before or after work? Feeling sluggish?

A lot of people abandon regular exercise during the winter. If that describes you, I know you have a slew of excuses, because I’ve used most of ‘em myself.

But even the best excuses ignore the cardinal law of physical fitness: Use it or lose it. You only get the fitness you earn today. You can’t store it up until the weather improves and the days get longer.

Don’t stop!
By the time the forsythia blooms, your sedentary body will have lost a lot of ground. It will take weeks or months of diligent work to get back to the fitness level (and its corresponding physical and psychological health benefits) you had when you laid off around Thanksgiving.

Just get going.

Walk
To improve traction, balance, and the quality of winter walking, invest in some good quality trekking poles. Get the adjustable kind with spring-loaded shock absorption, and you can use them for snowshoeing and summer hiking, too.

Yaktrax or other pull-on “grippers” can improve your confidence when conditions are icy. Not enough light after work? Take to a well-lit parking lot, streets with streetlights. Turn on the outside light and walk up and down your own driveway. If you have a mall nearby, walk there. Better yet, walk outdoors around the entire mall a few times.

Walk (or run) the stairs

If you have stairs in your home and the knees for it, pump up the volume on your MP3player or radio and hit the stairs. Don’t overdo these workouts; work up by going slowly and starting with only a few repetitions.

I keep my freezer and refrigerator in the basement and my computer workstation in a third-story attic. Besides keeping my leg muscle strong, this arrangement allows me to burn 11 pounds’ worth of calories each year just going about my daily activities.

Jump rope
Jumping rope isn’t just for kids. If you can work up to it, 15 minutes a day will give you the fitness benefits of half an hour of running or a 1000-yard swim. All you need is a rop[e and comfortable shoes. If your home has high ceilings, you can jump indoors. Other locations: a porch, garage, driveway, parking lot or other paved surface.

Strap on the snowshoes
I consider the snowshoes and poles we bought 12 years ago a major health investment. We’ve used them often all winter long ever since.

Snowshoes allow you to walk on water (or at least float on snow). If you can walk, you can snowshoe, especially in today’s lightweight, easy-on-easy-off models. This is the best time of year to buy new and used snowshoes. If you can, invest in a pair of trekking poles, too. They improve balance and stability, offer work for your upper body, and increase the workout intensity (building muscle, burning more calories).

Find a partner
Nothing  helps maintain your motivation to exercise like finding a partner as committed to his/her health and well being as you. A good walking/running/indoor biking partner makes the time fly and helps you forget your discomfort.

You don’t have to share the same political views or travel in the same social circles.The only requirements for a training partner/fitness buddy: 1. someone about the same fitness level as you, and 2. someone who’ll always shows up.

One to remember
But sometimes you have no choice but to go it alone.

My most memorable winter workout took place early one evening during a blizzard—a total whiteout with fierce winds. More than a foot of snow had already fallen, and it was accumulating a couple of inches per hour.

I pulled on my heaviest winter duds, turned on the outside light, and tramped around and around our circular driveway.

Whiteout conditions, where the snow seems to fall and swirl from all directions, confuse spatial perception to the point where it becomes difficult to tell up from down. To orient myself, I followed my footsteps, finding them almost totally obscured by the time I came around again.

I lost track of time in that other-worldly environment, stopping only when the power went out and I lost my light. Though I wouldn’t be able to recreate this event, I won’t forget it or the utter rapture of it.

My point? When it comes to exercise, seize the moment!

 

ABOUT THIS BLOG

“Living Naturally” is all about living a naturally healthy lifestyle. Margaret Boyles covers health tips, ways to avoid illness, natural remedies, food that’s good for body and soul, recipes for homemade beauty products, and ideas to make your home a healthy, safe haven. Our goal is also to encourage self-sufficiency, whether it’s relearning some age-old skills or getting informed on modern improvements that help us live better, healthier lives.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Jan. 21: 10-MINUTE WORKOUTS: ESPECIALLY GOOD IN WINTER

 

10-MINUTE WORKOUTS: ESPECIALLY GOOD IN WINTER

A growing body of research suggests that sneaking in one or several 10-minute bouts of exercise can deliver impressive health and fitness benefits.

That’s good to know, especially in winter, when ice, snow, cold, lack of light, and—face it—low or no motivation encourage us to move less, sit more, and eat holiday goodies for comfort.

Consider also

  • Brief workouts help beginning exercisers ease into a more active life. Begin with one 10-minute block and work up to three or more a day. Of course, you could gradually stretch any of these to 12, 15, or 20 minutes if the situation permits.

Veteran exercisers and athletes can use a 10- or 15-minute workout as a motivational tool on those days when they lose their oomph and can’t work up the get up and go. When that happens to you, negotiate with your lower angels. Say, “Okay, we don’t have to bike for an hour. We’ll only go for 10 minutes.” I’ve found this trick effective. After a few minutes, I almost always find myself willing to stretch it to 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or even longer.

A few favorites

So, what constitutes a 10-minute workout? Simple: keep that body in motion for 10 minutes.

Most exercise specialists say intensity—getting your heart rate up to the point of discomfort, and keeping it up for several minutes—works best for maintaining or increasing overall fitness. Warm up slowly for a couple of minutes before you pump up the intensity; slow down for a couple of minutes toward the end.

If you’re pregnant, sedentary, severely overweight, suffering from a chronic disease or injury, talk to your doctor before beginning any high-intensity exercise, even short bouts of it.

Jump for joy

Jumping rope for 10 minutes will give you a rip-roarin’ workout. It burns more calories than running. It boosts your mood. It improves your balance and your body’s natural rhythm. You can jump indoors or out. You can pack your rope and jump on vacation. You don’t need fancy clothes. You don’t even need a rope. Twirling your wrists as if you had one works about as well.

Start by marching or running in place for a minute or two, then begin jumping slowly. Beginners can try alternating 30 jumps with 30 steps of marching in place. (Even after years of hard-core triathlon training, it took me two months to work up to a few minutes of glitch-free jumping.)

Parking-lot trot

Having trouble concentrating at work (even at home)? Pull out that pair of shoes you keep under your desk and substitute a snack break for a brisk 10-minute walk or trot around the perimeter of the parking lot, grounds, or driveway

During the winter months, parking lots and driveways are nearly always plowed and sanded or salted for safety.

Physical exercise helps break the abstraction of “knowledge work” and the fatigue of repetitive-motion physical work. I’ll testify that it works wonders for breaking writer’s block.

Why wait?

Most of us spend a lot of time waiting: for a child to have his teeth cleaned or finish her swimming lesson, for the doctor after you’re told she’s running 30 minutes late, for a car repair, for the casserole to bake. Just keep a pair of comfortable shoes at the ready, check your watch, and head out.

Step it up

Stuck indoors at home with a small child? Dinner in the oven? Turn on some tunes and work those stairs! Warm up with a slow half-dozen flights up and down. Then charge up, walk down, charge up again, walk down, and repeat. Note: This workout requires stairways, strong knees, good balance, and good concentration, especially going down, to avoid falls. Add more work to this effort by swinging light hand weights as you go up.

If you work in an office building with several floors and well-lit stairwells, or have an appointment in one, walk up and down the stairs for a few minutes. Hold the handrail going down in case you feel dizzy.

Deep-snow after-dark shuffle

I discovered this one many years ago while homebound with a sick child during a three-day blizzard. I bundled up and pulled on my insulated boots after dinner, turned on the outside light, and began tramping around the unplowed circular driveway. The deep snow and my clunky boots cushioned the impact and offered muscle-building resistance. The heavy snow muffled noise from the street and falling snow transformed the night. I’ve continued this magical practice every year during big snowstorms, running, walking, skipping, jumping, or shuffling, often for much longer than 10 minutes.

Load-that-woodbox workout

Remember the old saw about necessity, the mother of invention? In our wood-burning household, we have to cart firewood from the woodshed into the house every day to stay warm. When it’s my turn to load the living-room woodbox, I begin with few shoulder raises with a couple of heavy chunks, perform half-squats with a heavy armload, push the big-wheeled wood carrier around the driveway four or five times before I bring the wood indoors.

You get the idea here, stretch almost any necessary job into an energetic 10-minute workout.

Airport aerobics

You have a flight ahead, during which you’ll probably sit most of the time. Your flight doesn’t leave for an hour or two or more. Although large airports offer plenty of opportunities to eat, drink, shop, and sit, why not walk the concourse? Many large airports offer special walking paths or fitness spaces. I’ve never used one of these, but I’ve logged as many as three miles of brisk walking throughout the concourses before boarding a flight.

What do you do with your carry-on luggage? Well, you could roll it or carry it, rent a locker and stash it, or do what I do, carry it all in a backpack and hike along with it.

Supermarket sashay

You’ve arrived at the supermarket with a two-page grocery list and found the parking lot full. You have to park a football field away from the door. Time for action!

Pull on your action-ready shoes and make at least two full trips around the outside perimeter of the parking lot before you go into the store. Wend your way up and down the center aisles, collecting items on your list as you go. Then walk back along the same route in reverse, picking up anything you might have missed. Now push the cart twice around the interior perimeter of the store, collecting the fresh stuff: fruit and vegetables, eggs, dairy products, poultry, and meat the second time around.

After you’ve checked out, make another brisk turn or two around the parking lot perimeter with your full cart. Watch for traffic!

A final note: Poke around in the activities of your ordinary days for opportunities like these to boost your activity level. Don’t forget to fidget!

 

ABOUT THIS BLOG

“Living Naturally” is all about living a naturally healthy lifestyle. Margaret Boyles covers health tips, ways to avoid illness, natural remedies, food that’s good for body and soul, recipes for homemade beauty products, and ideas to make your home a healthy, safe haven. Our goal is also to encourage self-sufficiency, whether it’s relearning some age-old skills or getting informed on modern improvements that help us live better, healthier lives.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Jan. 18: WINTER CAR EMERGENCY KIT

 

WINTER CAR EMERGENCY KIT

WHAT TO KEEP IN YOUR CAR IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY
By The Old Farmer’s Almanac
Keep the following supplies in your winter car emergency kit. In fact, we always say to prepare for the worst case scenario, especially in wintertime!

Emergencies can happen to anyone. Whether you run out of fuel, puncture a tire, or slip off a snowy road, keep a car emergency kit on-hand to help you get back on the road safely and quickly.

In addition to the items listed below, a cell phone is highly advised. Make sure your cell phone is charged every time you get in the car and keep a cell phone charger in your car.

CAR EMERGENCY KIT LIST

Keep the below items in a bag in your trunk. Ideally, we’d suggest a clear, plastic container so it’s easy to see and locate everything. You can buy a pre-packaged kit or create your own.

Minimum Supplies:

  • Flashlight, plus extra batteries (or a hand-crank flashlight)
  • Jumper cables
  • First-aid kit (band-aides, adhesive tape, antiseptic wipes, gauze pads, antiseptic cream, medical wrap).
  • Bottled water
  • Multi-tool (such as a Leatherman Tool or a Swiss Army Knife)
  • Road flares or reflective warning triangles

Other Essentials:

  • Small fire extinguisher (5-lb., Class B and Class C type) in case of a car fire
  • Tire gauge to check inflation pressure in all four tires and the spare tire
  • Jack and lug wrench to change a tire
  • Gloves, rags, hand cleaner (such as baby wipes)
  • Duct tape
  • Foam tire sealant for minor tire punctures
  • Rain poncho
  • Nonperishable high-energy foods such as granola bars, raisins, and peanut butter
  • Battery– or hand-crank–powered radio
  • Lighter and box of matches
  • Spare change and cash
  • Paper maps

Additional Items for Winter Driving:

For those in wintry areas, add the below items to your emergency kit. (If it’s balmy all winter where you live, be thankful that you don’t need all of this stuff!)

  • Blankets, gloves, hats
  • Ice scraper
  • Collapsible or folding snow shovel
  • A bag of sand to help with traction (or bag of kitty litter)
  • Blanket
  • Tire chains and tow strap
  • Hand warmers
  • Winter boots for longer trips
  • Sleeping bag for longer trips

WINTER DRIVING TIPS FOR CAR SAFETY

  • Keep your gas tank filled above halfway to avoid a gas line freeze-up.
  • Make sure tires are properly inflated.
  • Beware of black ice. Roads may look clear, but they may still be slippery.
  • Stuck on the ice without sand or cat litter? In a pinch, you can take the floor mats out of your car, place them next to the tires, and slowly inch the car onto and across the mats.
  • Make sure windows are defrosted and clear. And be sure to clear snow and ice from the top of the vehicle! Gently rub a small, moistened, cloth bag of iodized salt on the outside of your windshield to prevent the ice and snow from sticking.
  • To restore proper windshield wiper blade action, smooth the rubber blades with fine sandpaper to remove any grit and pits.
  • Fog-proof your mirrors and the inside of your windshields with shaving cream. Spray and wipe it off with paper towels.
  • Avoid driving when you have the flu, which can reduce your reaction time almost six times as much as moderate alcohol intake.

See more cold-weather tips provided by AAA.

What do you have in your car emergency kit? Let us know in the comments. (Thank you to our readers who have made suggestions, which we have added to the above list!)

Source: The Old Farmers Almanac

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Jan. 18: EMERGENCY SURVIVAL KIT

 

EMERGENCY SURVIVAL KIT

WHAT SUPPLIES DO YOU NEED FOR AN EMERGENCY?
By The Old Farmer’s Almanac
Keep the following supplies in your emergency survival kit, and you will be prepared for any adverse situation!

Have these items prepared in survival bags—portable bags, such as duffels or backpacks, that are used solely for holding emergency supplies. Store survival bags in an easily accessible place. If evacuation is necessary, be sure to follow the directions of local authorities.

FOOD AND WATER FOR EMERGENCIES

Food

  • You should have a three-day supply of non-perishable food, including ready-to-eat canned goods. Try to choose high energy foods, such as granola, dried fruit, nuts, protein bars, and jerky. Avoid overly salty foods, like chips and pretzels, as they will make you thirsty.
  • Be sure to have a manual can opener on hand, as well as eating utensils.
  • Prepare for any special dietary needs of your family.
  • It’s also possible to buy freeze-dried foods or meal kits in bulk, which are specially made and packaged for use in emergency situations.
  • Review your food supplies occasionally and eliminate anything that has exceeded its “use by” date.

Water

  • Keep on hand a three-day supply of water. You should have one gallon of water for each person, per day. To ensure safe drinking water, it is recommended to buy commercially bottled water.

HEALTH AND SAFETY SUPPLIES

  • First Aid Kit, including non-prescription medication and antibacterial gel.
  • Be sure to stock extra prescription medication and any other special medical or sanitary needs, such as extra diapers and formula for babies.
  • Tissues, paper towels, and toilet paper can also come in handy.

CLOTHING FOR YOUR SURVIVAL KIT

  • Plan accordingly for the climate you live in. Layered clothing can help you stay warm and dry.
  • Include at least one complete change of clothes for each person.

SURVIVAL TOOLS FOR EMERGENCIES

  • Flashlights, with extra batteries (or mechanical, squeeze-type flashlights)
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Paper and pencil
  • Signal flares
  • Extra cell phone battery or battery packs
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Pocket knife
  • Nylon rope
  • Duct tape
  • Cash

IMPORTANT FAMILY DOCUMENTS

Keep these records in a waterproof, portable container.

  • Will, insurance policies, contracts, deeds, stocks and bonds
  • Photo IDs, passports, social security cards, immunization records
  • Bank account numbers
  • Credit card account numbers and companies
  • Inventory of valuable household goods, important telephone numbers
  • Family records (birth, marriage, death certificates)
  • Photocopies of credit and identification cards

 

SOURCE:

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Jan. 18: SURVIVING BLIZZARDS, COLD SNAPS, AND POWER OUTAGES

 

SURVIVING BLIZZARDS, COLD SNAPS, AND POWER OUTAGES

HOW TO PREPARE FOR EXTREME WINTER WEATHER
Ever had a blizzard or snowstorm cause power outages or emergency conditions? How do you prepare and survive the storm? Here are some tips from a winter weather veteran.
Up here in northern New England, we have had our fair share of walloping Nor’easters. One year, blizzard conditions rolled into town at night, and we’d accumulated 10 inches of wet, heavy snow, and lost power within hours.

When we lose power, our two wood stoves—one of them a modern cookstove with an oven—keep us warm and well-fed, and prevent our pipes from freezing.

BEFORE THE BLIZZARD

This is our emergency-preparation routine:

  • We leave the chickens indoors, with plenty of food and water.
  • We assemble charged flashlights and kerosene lamps on the kitchen table.
  • We load the wood boxes.
  • We locate the snow shovels and the roof rake, and set them inside the greenhouse (our entry to the rest of the house).
  • We take showers and leave the tub half-filled with flushing water, in anticipation of a power outage. We fill a couple of big stockpots with drinking and cooking water.

AFTER THE BLIZZARD

During a particularly bad nighttime blizzard, after a fitful sleep, we awoke to 14 inches of snow, still wet and heavy, still coming down. By mid-morning, the snow had stopped.

Be sure you have strong shovels on hand! After the snow stopped, we donned outdoor gear and tackled two hours plus of heavy shoveling. Our fridge and root cellar were full. We had non-perishable food and water in the pantry.

Stock a battery-powered radio (rechargeable with a hand crank). As telephone cables were downed by the blizzard, our radio told us that hundreds of thousands were without power. Roads in town couldn’t even be plowed until utility crews arrived to saw up downed trees and untangled dangerous wires on the road.

By then, our utility’s emergency phone line was telling us to prepare for a “multi-day event.” They’d called in hundreds of utility-line workers from eastern Canada and as far south as Tennessee. My big concern: lack of power to the two big freezers in the cellar that hold a season’s worth of homegrown fruits and vegetables—our winter stash. I threw insulating quilts over them and hoped for the best.

I’ve lived most of my life in rural towns in northern New England, and over the decades, I’ve learned a few hard lessons about winter. No matter how well-prepared I think I am, I sometimes forget essentials, and things come up that I hadn’t imagined.

  • What do you do when your septic system freezes? The year my daughter Molly was two, our aged septic drain pipe cracked underground, leaked, and froze solid from early December until mid-April. (We’ve long since replaced it.) That winter we sponge-bathed, tossed dishwater into the bushes behind the woodshed, and fashioned a series of makeshift toilets in the basement: 5-gallon buckets and ample amounts of wood ashes. Come spring, we trucked the pails far into the sugarbush, dug holes, and buried the contents.
  • What happens if you hurt yourself? During a three-day blizzard, I sliced my finger to the bone hacking away at a winter squash. The gash really needed stitches, but there was no way we could get out and drive the 20 miles to an urgent care center. I disinfected it, bathed it in a strong infusion of dried yarrow leaves (with styptic, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties), then applied pressure with a sterile bandage until the bleeding slowed. I wrapped it with a dry, sterile gauze pad and bound it tightly with a big wad of duct tape. The next morning, I undid the bandage. The bleeding had stopped and I was pleased to note no swelling or oozing. I disinfected the area again, applied four butterfly bandages to keep the wound edges together, and again wrapped it with duct tape.

The message for rural-dwellers: Maintain a well-stocked first-aid kit, with bandages of all sizes and shapes, including butterfly bandages, self-adhesive elastic bandages, and a big roll of duct tape. I also keep bottles of over-the-counter pain-killers and liquid antihistamine, plenty of disinfectant, a digital thermometer, and a pair of fine-pointed tweezers for removing slivers.

Lessons learned from the latest storm

  • Have a backup plan for the landline. Last summer, our small town finally got wired with fiber-optic cable, and we signed up. One thing the sales and technical folks failed to tell us was that the optical cable, and along with it, our landline, would fail along with the power. Despite an 18-hour backup system in the basement, our phone did fail, and we spent one night and half the next day without any connection to the outside world. That was frightening. The high cost and poor cell service in our area has kept us from going mobile, but we’ve since found a very low-cost pay-as-you-go phone that connects with the most reliable service.
  • Keep an eye on the fire extinguishers. Midway through the storm, I thought to check the three we keep on hand; two all-purpose ones for the wood-stove areas, a smaller one for kitchen fires perched on the shelf alongside the herbs and spices over the gas stove. All had expired! We tend our stoves with care, keep combustibles far from both the stoves, and store the ashes in a covered metal trash barrel on a cement floor, but an accident, a moment of carelessness, or an electrical problem could cause a blaze.
  • Keep fresh batteries in the smoke detectors. I suddenly remembered we hadn’t changed the backup batteries in our hard-wired smoke detector system since it was installed three years ago. Guess what? We were out of the 9-volt batteries the system required.

After we recovered from the storm, I headed off to buy three new fire extinguishers, a cell phone, and a package of 9-volt batteries for the smoke alarms.

 

ABOUT THIS BLOG

“Living Naturally” is all about living a naturally healthy lifestyle. Margaret Boyles covers health tips, ways to avoid illness, natural remedies, food that’s good for body and soul, recipes for homemade beauty products, and ideas to make your home a healthy, safe haven. Our goal is also to encourage self-sufficiency, whether it’s relearning some age-old skills or getting informed on modern improvements that help us live better, healthier lives.

Published on The Old Farmers Almanac

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Jan. 17: 5 NATURAL SORE THROAT REMEDIES

 

5 NATURAL SORE THROAT REMEDIES

SALT, LEMON, SAGE, APPLE CIDER VINEGAR, AND GINGER
By The Old Farmer’s Almanac
Here are five simple natural sore throat remedies to help ease the discomfort! Let us know how they work for you!

When you have a sore throat, it’s your body’s immune response to viral or bacterial infections. Sore throats can be quite uncomfortable, especially when you swallow. The mucous membranes in your throat are inflamed and swollen.

Of course, the most important thing you can do is drink fluids and stay well hydrated! Keep your throat’s mucous membranes moist so it can heal.

Try drinking or at least sipping water every hour. If it’s uncomfortable, try drinking warm herbal tea such as Echinacea, peppermint, and chamomile. Sucking on an herbal throat lozenger also produces saliva and soothes the throat.

Here are some natural sore throat remedies to provide relief, using simple ingredients from your pantry.

GARGLE WITH SALT WATER
Of course, one common way to ease the discomfort of sore throat is gargling with salt water. The salt helps reduce swelling.

Combine 1 cup of warm water with 1 teaspoon of salt and stir to dissolve. Gargle with a mouthful of this mixture for 30 seconds, once per hour.

GARGLE WITH COOL SAGE TEA
Sage is a wonderful herb used in cooking, but also has antiinflammatory and antibacterial properties to help soothe and help a sore throat.

Mix 1 teaspoon of herb in 1 cup of boiling water for 10 minutes, then strain.

 

DRINK LEMON WATER
Not only does lemon contain vitamin C and antioxidants, but it increases the amount of saliva you produce to keep your mucous membranes moist and soothe your sore throat.

For a particularly scratchy throat, take one tablespoon of concentrated lemon juice followed immediately by a tablespoon of honey just before bed, which will usually soothe your throat until morning.

Find more household uses for lemons.

 

SIP APPLE CIDER VINEGAR WITH HONEY
Apple cider vinegar has been used in folk medicine remedies for centuries. It contains acetic acid which has antibacterial properties.

To help relieve throat pain, mix 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar and 1 tablespoon of honey or sweetener in a cup of warm water.

Note: Honey shouldn’t be given to children under the age of one.

 

GINGER TEA
Ginger has been shown to relieve inflammation which should help sooth a sore throat. There also studies that show ginger has antibacterial powers.

You can purchase ginger tea or make your own tea with fresh ginger.

Boil 4 cups of water in a saucepan. Turn off heat, add 1 tablespoon of grated ginger root, and cover for 10 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of honey (or sweetener) and a squeeze of lemon juice. Drink warm or cool. Reheat if desired.

Tea with ginger, lemon, and honey. And cold medicine. Photo credit: Fogey/Shutterstock

READER RECIPES
Here are a couple of age-old recipes that readers swear by!

Horseradish Cocktail: “Make a syrup of 1 tablespoon horseradish, 1 teaspoon of honey, and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Mix in a glass of warm water and drink slowly.”

Cider Vinegar With Pepper: “Put a cap full of apple cider vinegar, 3 shakes each of cayenne pepper and black pepper into a cup of warm, salted water. Gargle as many times as needed. This remedy is said to change the pH balance in your throat.”

Of course, there are also medications including NSAIDs and throat sprays. But we hope that these home remedies soothe the pain of your sore throat and help relieve your discomfort.

Note Be sure to see doctor if your sore throat lasts more than a few days as you could have strep throat or another infection.

 

–The Old Farmer’s Almanac

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Jan. 17: NATURAL REMEDIES FOR ARTHRITIS

 

NATURAL REMEDIES FOR ARTHRITIS

HOW TO GET RID OF ARTHRITIS PAIN
By The Old Farmer’s Almanac
If you feel pain and stiffness in your joints caused by inflammation, see our natural remedies for arthritis.

Did you know more than 15 million people over the age of 45 complain of osteoarthritis? We don’t want you to suffer any more, so check out these tips.

HOME REMEDIES FOR ARTHRITIS

  • Ice your affected joints right after doing an activity. Don’t allow them to become inflamed.
  • Capsaicin—the “hot” chemical in chili peppers—can relieve the pain of arthritis. You can find it over the counter at drugstores. Don’t get carried away with this idea and try smearing yourself directly with chili peepers—that’s a higher potency than most skin will tolerate.
  • Increase the amount of fish in your diet or take fish oil pills.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Stretch for 18 to 20 minutes a day. Focus your stretching where it hurts the most, but increase flexibility all over.
  • Pack a small jar with golden raisins and cover them with gin. Eat nine raisins every morning, squeezing the extra gin back in the jar.
  • Bee-vemon contains anti-inflammatory peptides that act against the pain and inflammation of your arthritis. If you’re allergic to bees, do not use this remedy without the supervision of a doctor. Even if you aren’t allergic, buy a bee sting kit from your pharmacy and keep it handy.

Do you have any tips or tricks that help your arthritis? Let us know below!

–The Old Farmer’s Almanac

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Jan. 17: NATURAL REMEDIES FOR DRY HAIR, ITCHY SKIN, AND MORE

 

NATURAL REMEDIES FOR DRY HAIR, ITCHY SKIN, AND MORE

BEAT THESE COMMON PROBLEMS WITH NATURAL REMEDIES
By Margaret Boyles & Margaret Ross
If you suffer from frizzy hair, itchy skin, chapped lips, or one of many other common cosmetic issues, try these easy and time-tested natural remedies!

GENERAL ADVICE

  • First, forget the idea that drinking plenty of water will keep your skin (eyes, nasal passages, nails) moist and your hair well behaved. Dermatologists say that while drinking water is important for overall health, as far as moisturizing skin, hair, and nails are concerned, you need to add moisture from the outside and prevent it from escaping into the drier surrounding air.
  • Humidifying dry indoor air helps to provide that indoor moisture. It’s especially important if you suffer bloody noses and lots of respiratory infections. You could run an electric humidifier, but passive solutions may do the trick for you. We maintain a lot of well-watered houseplants that transpire water into the indoor air. We keep steamers going on each of our stoves that pump moisture into the air whenever the stove is running.
  • Hanging your laundry on bars indoors is another great strategy. It doesn’t take much longer to dry near the woodstove than it would in an electric dryer, and while it dries, your laundry humidifies the air around it.

NATURAL REMEDIES

Dull, Frizzy, Dry Hair

  • Use lemon juice as a rinse over freshly washed hair to induce natural highlights, especially if you’re a blond. It’s instant sunshine for your hair, in a fruit.
  • Beer has long been used—even by professionals—as a setting lotion and conditioner. Pour straight from the can or bottle, comb through and rinse.
  • Mayonnaise, straight from the jar, will make hair soft and shiny. The egg nourishes brittle hair with protein, while the vinegar gives it body and bounce.
  • Try this mixture to regain supple hair: Mix one teaspoon powdered brewers’ yeast with four ounces of apple cider vinegar to create an after wash rinse. Pour it over wet hair and let stand at least a minute before rinsing.
  • To tame flyaway hair, try a weekly deep-conditioning. For a rich conditioning treatment that you’d pay $30 to $100 for at a salon, mix a couple of tablespoons of olive, coconut, or castor oil with ½ cup of full-fat mayonnaise (alternatively: a ripe, mashed avocado), and massage into your hair and scalp. Then wrap your hair in a large plastic grocery bag and top it off with a warm, dry towel for about 30 minutes. Wash and rinse as usual (but sometimes twice is needed, to remove the oil).
  • To make a light and moisturizing leave-in conditioner, mix two parts water, one part witch hazel, two parts vegetable glycerin (a natural moisturizer available online or in health/natural food stores), and a tablespoon of olive or other cooking oil per cup of liquid in a spray bottle. If you have aloe vera gel on hand, add one part of that to the mixture. A few drops of essential oil will give you a scented product. Spritz on wet or dry hair before styling.

Oily Hair and Skin

  • Add one teaspoon baking soda to two ounces of your shampoo. This works as an alkali to absorb excess oil.
  • Baking soda works the same way with skin, it will absorb oil and also neutralize excess acid in your skin. Make a paste with baking soda and water.
  • Try lemon juice as an astringent facial cleanser.

Dry, Itchy Skin

  • You could use a commercial moisturizer or simply apply a thin coat of olive oil immediately after showering or bathing.
  • Dermatologists also suggest taking shorter baths or showers in warm (not hot) water. Use a mild, glycerin-based soap. And stay away from hair or skin-care products that contain any forms of alcohol, which are drying agents.
  • If you have itchy skin, try a soothing oatmeal bath.
  • For a homemade scrub, mix ground oats and honey. Rub all over your face—especially your nose. The abrasive will remove dry, scaly skin while the honey seeps in as a moisturizer. Rinse completely off and pat dry, and your skin will be glowing and baby soft. Only use this remedy once a week.
  • For superdry skin, use olive oil. Rub it in prior to a bath or shower. You may substitute peanut, sesame or sunflower oil.
  • A quart of milk in a hot bath is a luxury as well as a skin toner. It’s a trick nearly as old as time..

Puffy, Tired-Looking, Dry Eyes

  • Used teabags make excellent eye cosmetics. After being dunked (and allowed to cool slightly), drain the tea bag and place it over your closed eye (one for each) and hold it there for a few minutes. Redness, soreness, swelling and irritation will disappear like magic.
  • If you suffer from dry, scratchy, itchy, eyes, try laying a warm, moist washcloth over your closed lids for a few minutes each day.
    • This simple, effective treatment helps to liquefy the lubricating oil in glands located along the eyelids. It may take a few days, but if you use the compresses faithfully, you should experience relief.

 

Dry, Chapped Lips

  • To prevent cracked or chapped lips, use a lip balm and apply it often. It’s inexpensive and easy to make your own. If you make a big batch that’s a bit heavier on the olive oil, you can use your homemade balm for hands, fingernails, facial moisturizer, and (just a dab) hair conditioner, too.
  • Plain honey is an excellent remedy for chapped lips. Leave on overnight—it makes for sweet dreams!

Brittle Nails and Ragged Cuticles

  • To prevent brittle nails and ragged cuticles, use your homemade balm or a commercial conditioning agent after bathing or doing dishes. Some dermatologists suggest coating hands and nails with Vaseline or another moisturizing product and wearing cotton gloves overnight to treat dry nails and cuticles.
  • If you polish your nails, find an acetone-free polish remover, as acetone is a serious drying agent.
  • Also make sure to wear gloves or mittens when you go outside to prevent the dry winter air from drawing moisture from your hands and nails.

SOURCE:

Parts adapted from The 1977 Old Farmer’s Almanac.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Jan. 17: NATURAL REMEDIES FOR ANXIETY AND STRESS

 

NATURAL REMEDIES FOR ANXIETY AND STRESS

HERBS FOR ANXIETY AND NATURAL ANXIETY RELIEF
By The Old Farmer’s Almanac
Herbs and natural remedies can help calm anxiety and stress. Here’s a list of ways to relieve anxiety naturally.

First, attempt to calm thyself. If gardening or another relaxing activity doesn’t calm your nerves and make you sleep well, you’ll have to try some of these other tips involving herbs for anxiety and anxiety remedies. If gardening does help, you can grow some of these herbs so that you can beat your anxiety in two ways.

Insomnia can often be caused by stress or anxiety, or insomnia can lead to anxiety. For this reason, we include some natural remedies for insomnia here as well.

HERBAL TEAS

  • Teas of chamomile, basil, marjoram, sage, or mint help ease stress. Use about 1 ounce fresh herbs (half of that if dried) for every 2 to 3 cups water.
  • A tea of elderberry flowers is considered relaxing to the nerves and is sleep-inducing, too. (Caution! Avoid if pregnant.)
  • For insomnia, drink bee balm. It acts as a mild sedative, calming the nerves and aiding sleep. Take an infusion of 2 teaspoons chopped leaves in 1 cup boiling water.
  • Drink rosemary tea to alleviate melancholy or depression.
  • Native American tea ingredients for insomnia included lady’s slipper (decocted), yarrow, mullein, hops, and purslane (decocted).
  • Valerian tea (or capsules) is a natural sleep aide. In infusions, 1 ounce of the roots in 1 pint boiling water is a common recipe, consumed by wineglass as needed. (Caution: Too high a dose may lead to negative side effects!)

HOME REMEDIES FOR ANXIETY: FOOD

  • First, do not eat your final meal late in the evening, and keep the meal light.
  • Eating lettuce with your dinner is supposed to be calming, helping you to sleep and have pleasant dreams. Some say you should not have vinegar with your lettuce.
  • Mandarin oranges are soporifics, so consider adding them to your evening meal to help insomnia.
  • Native Americans reportedly ate raw onions to induce sleep. (They also used a variety of herbal syrups and poultices, but they’re a bit too complicated for most of us today.)
  • Trying to remain relaxed but alert? Some studies suggest that the smell of apples, apple cider vinegar, or spiced apples have this effect. The right smell can make all the difference.
  • Adding some calm-inducing foods to your diet can also be helpful. Try this collection of herb recipes to see if you can incorporate beneficial herbs into your meals.

NATURAL ANXIETY RELIEF: MASSAGES AND RUBS

  • Massage your temples with lavender oil. See more about the benefits of lovely lavender for the health and home.
  • A warm bath with a couple of drops of chamomile oil aides sleeping. Add a splash of lavender oil for a relaxing aroma.
  • For a relaxing body rub, soak equal parts finely chopped dandelions, burdock (roots and/or aerial parts), yellow dock, and lobelia in a mason jar of vodka for two weeks. Apply externally (and avoid the temptation to drink the solution).

HOW TO RELIEVE ANXIETY AT BEDTIME

  • Strew lavender in the linen closet to scent your bed sheets with this mildly narcotic herb.
  • Try putting a few drops of lavender oil in or right under your nose—gently, with a cotton swab (Q-tip).
  • Sprinkle infusions of dill on your pillowcases and quickly iron them dry or fluff them in a clothes dryer.
  • Dill will also lull cranky babies to sleep. Add dill infusion to the bath, sprinkle on a baby’s blanket, or use as a hair rinse. (We all know babies can cause stress—if they can sleep, maybe you can sleep, too!)
  • Sage is considered a “ghost medicine,” used to prevent stressful nightmares. Strew it on the floor or in the bed.
  • Keep in mind: Not every fragrant herb is suitable for a good night’s sleep. Some can have the reverse effect. You may wish to consult an herbalist.

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.
–Irish proverb

SOURCE:

This page was first published in 2009 and is regularly updated.