Archive | November, 2017

So You Want to Be a Farmer

Posted on 26 November 2017 by sam

So You Want to Be a Farmer

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”
― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

A switch to a career in agriculture can be a fulfilling, albeit challenging, change. Farming will open your eyes to food production and give you a newfound appreciation for basics we take for granted. It’s definitely a change you’ll want to consider and plan for for a long time. You may have minimal income, and you will have to do lots of manual labor.


You’re probably planning on growing some crops, right? Don’t take too much on at once.

Make sure to plan specifically what kinds of crops and how much you want, and be sure you know expert growing techniques. Depending on what size your crop will be, you will want to look at different seed providers and equipment. You might be a rancher who keeps a small patch to simply sustain the household. You might be going for a few large vegetable patches from which you can gather a harvest suitable for a farmer’s market. You might be wanting to go into massive, high-quantity production of a major crop such as corn. Or you may even want to grow something fun and seasonal, like a pumpkin patch that you can open to the public! All these options are worthwhile and fulfilling, but they all take a great deal of planning, preparation, and hard work.    


There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned barn raising! Of course, putting up a barn today happens a little differently than it did a century-and-a-half ago. As you well know, farming isn’t only about growing the crops and raising the animals. There’s a whole element of infrastructure, and this includes your buildings. Agricultural buildings deal with a lot of wear and tear. If you’re housing animals, you have lives at stake. Whether you’re storing equipment or harvest, or whether you’re housing cattle, horses, or other livestock, you will keep thousands of dollars worth of product in these buildings. It’s essential to invest in buildings and building materials that maximize protection and utility. Use a contractor whom you trust!

Extra help

With a massive undertaking like a farm, it’s definitely okay to get help in the areas you aren’t expert in. For instance, you may want to keep a CPA who knows the ins and outs of finance and farms. You’ll also want a lawyer in the know. This is especially true if you want to farm any plants that might have regulations. If you’re interested in growing cannabis, for instance, you’ll want to make sure you’re complying with all the legal ramifications, many of which are still not quite defined.

As you grow your farm, you may need to hire help. You’ll probably be spending double-digit hours a day working anyhow, and you may, happily, reach a point where the work can’t be done by just one or two people. It’s possible that you will find a ranch hand who is expert in an area that isn’t quite your forte, such as training horses, breeding practices, or operating heavy machinery. Spending a little extra money to maximize your output is going to be a great return on an investment.

When Accidents Happen on Vacation

Posted on 26 November 2017 by sam

When Accidents Happen on Vacation

When we think of accidents happening, most of us probably picture them occurring at home, at work, or somewhere in between the two places. After all, we spend a lot of time working and a lot of time inside our homes, so statistically speaking, accidents are more likely to happen there, right? There’s some truth to that, but unfortunately, accidents can also happen when you’re away on a long-planned vacation. It doesn’t matter if it’s a weekend getaway to Gulf Shores, Alabama, or a two-week long tour of Western Europe. No one is immune to the accident bug striking.

Finding medical treatment

Not every injury will require immediate medical attention, of course. If you cut your finger chopping vegetables for dinner in your beach house, a Band-Aid and some Neosporin may be all you need. But what if something more serious happens? What if you fall down a staircase while touring an art museum, or get hit by a car while crossing a street in San Francisco? You may be more panicked because you’re in a strange place with doctors you don’t know. That’s fair, since most of us would prefer to go see the doctor who has been treating us for years, or at least would prefer to go to an emergency room in our safe, familiar hometown. You may not have that luxury, though. Get to a hospital and get the treatment you need. It’s possible you may have to fight with your insurance company later because of those pesky “out-of-network” charges (although those shouldn’t apply in certain cases). That’s a real pain in the rear, but don’t let it stop you.

The nature of your injury may require you to stay in town a lot longer than you anticipated. For instance, if you break a leg, a doctor may not allow you to fly back home for a couple of weeks, if not longer. That can really complicate things. If you’re on a family vacation, it’s probably wise to send at least some of the family back home to take care of the house and other important things. You may have to make an uncomfortable call to your boss explaining you’re forbidden from going home right now, but if you feel up to it, offer to telecommute from your vacation spot. Yeah, you probably didn’t plan to do any work when you left for Florida, but you also probably didn’t plan to break your leg.

Once you’re healed

Your first priority should be getting better, but once you’re past the initial stages of recovery, you may start to wonder about the circumstances of your accident. Shouldn’t the car that have hit you stopped for pedestrians? If someone else was responsible for your injuries, what should you do?

It’s natural to be unsure about these sort of things, but that’s why there are personal injury attorneys. You’ll need to talk with an attorney in the place where the accident happened. So if you were making a holiday trip to your sister’s house in Rockford, Illinois, when you got hurt, you’ll need to locate a Rockford personal injury attorney. You should be able to get a free consultation, and if you call and explain the circumstances, you may even be able to get the consultation done over the phone. It’s easy to think that you shouldn’t pursue it because it happened while you were visiting from out-of-town. That may be the right call, or it may not be. Talk to an attorney before you make the final call.

Ensuring a Hygienic Industrial Environment

Posted on 26 November 2017 by sam

Ensuring an Hygienic Industrial Environment

According to OSHA, “Industrial Hygiene” refers to “science of anticipating, recognizing, evaluating, and controlling workplace conditions that may cause workers’ injury or illness.” Industrial hygiene is essential to maintain. It has been a concern for centuries, with such policies as the British Chimney-Sweeper’s Act of 1788 and the first American worker’s compensation laws in 1911. Today, nearly every employer in the United States must adhere to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA). Technology and safety continue to advance to improve the health of the work environment, although we do discover still that some substances that were once staple materials are actually hazardous (take asbestos, for instance).

Know the hazards

It’s important to know what the hazards are. Each job or industry has certain hazards that are more prevalent than others, so be sure to research which ones apply to you. OSHA says that the major job risks fall into the following categories: physical, ergonomic, chemical, biological, and air contaminants. Physical hazards include things such as radiation, noise, and temperature. Ergonomic considerations involve the physical tasks workers must complete and the technology that might aid or hinder them. Chemical compounds that might be inhaled, absorbed, or ingested are a major concern, as are biological hazards such as viruses and certain microorganisms. Air contaminants, though similar to some of the biological and chemical hazards, include anything we might inhale, such as dust, fumes, or aerosols.

Maintaining a hygienic work environment

Since there are many rules, regulations, and compliance standards, companies oftenl hire abatement contractors to ensure that the workplace meets all the hygiene standards–and if it doesn’t, what measures to take to reduce the harmful substances and comply to regulations. These contractors can run tests for all sorts of contaminants, including lead and asbestos, as well as checking water and waste management. There are organizations and consultants out there that provide health and safety training, disaster response training, hazard prevention and control, and worksite analysis, to name a few. It’s a good idea to incorporate these trainings and measures in your workplace for all employees.

The very equipment your employees use needs to meet these regulations. Be sure that your machinery and other constructed necessities are developed with sound engineering and out of non-toxic, compliant materials. For instance, installing an effective HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system–and keeping it well-maintained–will improve the temperature and air quality of a building.

It may be worth having an industrial hygienist on your team or at least on-call. Industrial hygienists have degrees in an appropriate science field and have at least three years working in the industrial hygiene field. Most have been certified by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene, and they dedicate their careers to the health and safety of workers everywhere.

Failure to meet compliance regulations can have devastating consequences for employees and employers alike. First of all, the company could face serious fines, and secondly, if employees are injured or made ill on the job, the company could face lawsuits. At the very least, they will have to pay out workers’ compensation, which could cost thousands of dollars.

Why Businesses Need Legal Representation

Posted on 26 November 2017 by sam

Why Businesses Need Legal Representation

The “Law and Order” television franchise has provided hours of entertainment to millions, in addition to providing jobs for thousands of struggling actors in the New York City. But what’s entertaining isn’t always accurate. On TV shows, you typically see attorneys in the middle of a crowded courtroom, banging the table and shouting things like “I object!” In real life, things are rarely that dramatic, even in criminal court. For one thing, the vast majority of criminal cases are plead out without ever going to trial. For another thing, most judges don’t tolerate yelling in their courtrooms, regardless of whether the person yelling is a lawyer in a suit or a suspect in handcuffs.

There’s a whole world of lawyers who don’t spend much time in a courtroom, though. If they do, it’s way more likely to be because of a civil suit rather than a criminal one. Almost every business of halfway decent size has an attorney that represents them. There are multiple reasons for that.

Navigating regulatory structures

Every business has to comply with at least some city, state, and even federal regulations. That’s true regardless of if you’re running a food truck that sells cupcakes or a gas production company that produces certain contaminants. Opening up a business without being aware of the rules and regulations is a very bad idea. That’s especially true in newer industries where the rules aren’t always as clear as we’d like.

Take the legal marijuana industry. Over the last few years, more and more states have decided to allow the sale of medical and/or recreational marijuana. That’s great news for people who like pot, regardless of if they’re using it for pain relief or just to get high. But the states aren’t just saying, “Well, pot is legal now. Have fun with it, guys!” They’re setting up complicated regulatory structures that have to be navigated properly. Think of it like a maze where one wrong turn means a dead end. If you can afford to open up a medical marijuana shop, you should also be able to hire a knowledgeable attorney who will help you come up with a medical marijuana business plan. If you can’t pass a background check, then there’s no way the state is going to give you a license to open a pot shop. A good attorney will be able to tell you whether or not your DUI from fifteen years ago will disqualify you.

Responding to civil suits

If you deal with the public, then there’s a very good chance that someone will threaten to sue you for some perceived wrongdoing that may or may not have any merit. You should shut down the conversation the minute a person says, “I’m going to call my lawyer.” Then you should make a phone call to your own business lawyer. Your attorney will know that the majority of people who threaten to sue are just blowing smoke, but they can still start to prepare themselves just in case.

A civil lawsuit can be devastating for your company, even if you have insurance that helps soften the blow. Your attorney can tell you if you should settle or take the case to trial. You may feel like settling is admitting wrongdoing, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s a way to put the whole thing behind you and move on with your life and your business.

Local Legal Expertise Matters

Posted on 26 November 2017 by sam

Local Legal Expertise Matters

Not all attorneys are created equal. If you find yourself in a pickle, and if it’s a big enough pickle that you’ll need to a hire a lawyer to help you extricate yourself from it, then you shouldn’t just go with the very first lawyer you see on TV. Do some research first. Yes, time may be of the essence, especially if you’re facing an upcoming court date, but chances are you’ve already screwed up at least once if you’re facing criminal charges. Don’t compound the mistake by getting a lawyer that’s either a bad fit or just plain bad.

Jurisdiction matters

If you get arrested while traveling, you probably can’t just go back to your hometown and use the same family lawyer that you’ve known since you were a kid. You may be able to do that if, for instance you were arrested in Bakersfield but you live in Fresno, since those two cities are fairly close together and, more importantly, they’re in the same state. The law changes a lot when you cross state lines, though, so a lawyer from Seattle won’t be able to help you with an outstanding criminal case in Portland. Even if a lawyer can legally practice law in both Washington and Oregon, you want someone who is intimately familiar with the way the local court system works. You’ll also find a difference between local and urban situations, even if the city and town are in the same state. Your lawyer should have a decent working relationship with the prosecutors in town. Connections can be the key to getting your felony charge dropped down to a misdemeanor. It may not seem right, but it’s the way it goes in most places. So if you get a DUI in Rockford, Illinois, resist the urge to call up a lawyer from Chicago. Call a Rockford attorney instead and start hashing out a plan as soon as possible.

Experience matters

Sure, your cousin in law school may be able to give you some basic legal advice, but that’s not going to get you very far. If you’re facing drug charges, picking a lawyer with the right experience can literally mean the difference between jail time or probation and community service. Choosing the cheapest option is understandable if you’re shopping for pasta at the grocery store, since the worst-case scenario there is a mediocre dinner. The stakes are higher in criminal cases. Don’t forget that, and don’t treat it like it’s no big deal. It can be a very big deal. A good lawyer will let you know the gravity of your situation, and he or she won’t make promises he or she can’t keep, since it’s hard to predict how judges and juries will behave.

Legal representation isn’t cheap, but it’s a lot less costly than jail in every sense that matters. Public defenders are often more than capable, but they also have a ridiculous amount of clients to take care of, especially in an age where more and more states are slashing their offices’ budgets. If you have any (legal) way of affording a private attorney, then you should move heaven and earth to do it. A criminal record can affect everything from the type of job you get to where in town you can rent an apartment. If you don’t pay for good legal representation now, you’ll be paying for it later.

Why Nonprofits Need Money During the Holidays

Posted on 26 November 2017 by sam

Why Nonprofits Need Money During the Holidays

November arrives, and with it comes the deluge of requests from nonprofits looking for holiday donations. They fill up your mailbox if you don’t check it for a few days. They pour in your inbox as well, joining the cluster of holiday shopping offers you get from pretty much every retailer you’ve ever shopped at (and many you haven’t). You might even get a phone call asking if you would consider donating. It’s easy for it to feel like a bit much, but there are multiple reasons why charities really ramp up their fundraising efforts during the holidays.

People are feeling more generous

Whether consciously or not, most of us try to spend a little more to help others during the holidays. Sometimes we’re helping family members and loved ones. Does your sister want to take dance lessons with her fiance before their wedding day? You’ll probably be more inclined to buy them a few sessions at a dance academy during the period from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Is your mother dealing with a lot of neck pain that she can’t quite explain? Now’s a great time to buy her a gift certificate to a local massage parlor. It may be the spirit of the season, but you’re more likely to hear about someone with a problem and think “I can help” if you hear about it closer to the holidays.

Then there are the people who get holiday bonuses. Not everyone is lucky enough to be handed an extra check in December, but those who are will probably be more inclined to spend some of it on those who are less fortunate. When someone gives you bonus money, it’s easy to think about how fortunate you are in comparison to others. There are so many people who could use a hand around Christmas, whether it’s homeless people lining up at a soup kitchen or a kid in poverty who isn’t sure if he’ll have anything to unwrap Christmas morning. It may sound a bit cheesy, but giving to a good cause is a way for many people to tell themselves, “This is what Christmas is really about.”

It’s the end of the year

Charities typically set annual fundraising goals, and December means it’s the last chance for them to meet those goals. Smaller charities may set a goal of a few thousand a year, while massive national charities will hope to raise millions of dollars from January 1 to December 31. If they don’t mean the goals, that means they’ll have to make cutbacks in their services, which might mean turning away people in desperate need of help. No charity wants to think about doing that, and so they’ll start contracting with call centers. Non-profit fundraising at the Donor Care Center can provide a more cost-efficient way for charities to raise money.

Some people are suspicious when they receive calls from people claiming to represent a charity. In these times, that’s understandable. Feel free to ask questions about the charity the person is calling on behalf of. If you want to donate over the phone, that’s great, but you can also politely decline and perform some of your own research on the organization first. Then you can donate online or by mail if you decide it’s a cause you’re comfortable supporting.

Don’t Replace the Product; Replace the Part

Posted on 26 November 2017 by sam

Don’t Replace the Product; Replace the Part

When a device or appliance breaks, it sometimes feels easier to throw it out; however, this is hard on your wallet and also on the planet. There are products that come with the caveat that they will have parts that constantly need replacing; for instance, vapes and e-cigarettes frequently need new e-liquid and atomizers. Other appliances may not seem so obvious, but you can definitely get a few extra years out of them if you keep them maintained and repair them. Repairing products is generally cheaper than completely replacing them, at least up to a certain point.

Keep repairing

Large home appliances usually have long lifespans (anywhere from six to thirteen years, depending on the appliance), and are worth keeping repaired, rather than replaced, because they are pricey investments and have the potential to stay around for a while. These include refrigerators, dryers, ovens, washers, etc. There are plenty of trained repairpeople who will come out to your home to assess the situation and provide repairs–or counsel you if it’s time to get rid of that fridge.

With pieces of office furniture or technology-based beds or car seats, get a repairperson to look at them. Especially since these don’t require software (or, at least, their whole purpose is not reliant on software), you probably have a good chance of getting them replaced and ensuring a long life. See if a specific part has malfunctioned and if you can get a replacement from the vendor or supplier. You don’t want to buy a whole new car just because one seat won’t lean back! That is definitely not cost-effective.

With smaller appliances and devices, such as televisions or phones, it’s essential to keep good care practices. Keep your laptop current, keep it in a sleeve or case, and defragment the hard drive regularly. If a device needs a repair, get it ASAP. Small damages add up and will kill the device sooner than if you stay on top of them.

When it’s time for the thing to go

Of course, sometimes a product is broken past repair or the cost to replace or repair a part would cost more or almost as much as a new item. If any appliance or device is over halfway through its recommended lifespan, get a quote on what it would take to repair it, and if the repair costs more than 50% of the replacement cost, then most experts recommend that it’s time to replace the product.

If you do need to completely replace a product, make sure you dispose of the old one in an environmentally-sound way. Computer and office supply stores may offer places to drop off computer and devices to be recycled–this is really important because these devices use chemicals and batteries that could leak into the ground if put into a landfill. See if there’s a Responsible Appliance Disposal-compliant company near you that you take your larger appliances Be sure to check with EnergyStar to see what rebates are in your area for particular energy-efficient or water-conservative new appliances.

Set Up a Small Business That Appeals to Customers

Posted on 16 November 2017 by sam

When you decide to open a small business, there’s a lot to consider. Do you want to be the sole owner, or do you want to split the business with someone else? What kind of storefront do you want to open, and where do you want to open it? What hours will you be open? What will your marketing budget look like?

In the midst of all that, there’s something else you don’t want to forget: The way you organize your store and lay out your merchandise also matters quite a bit. People want to buy things in an environment that feels welcoming. They want to go into a store and see that the people running the place put some thought into how things should look. They don’t want to go into a place and see a bunch of merchandise strewn around haphazardly. That shows a lack of purpose and competence. And you really want an environment that exudes both, or else you’re going to risk turning customers off as soon as they walk in the door.

Clean and simple design

The way you display your merchandise depends in large part on what kind of merchandise you’re selling. Bookstores use shelves to display most of their products, although they also put out featured titles on tables with the covers facing up. If you walk into a hardware store, you’ll find a mix of shelves, bins, panels, and even things like steel slatwalls. In most cases, it’s best to stick to basic colors like black and white, as they’ll keep the focus on the product where it belongs. You want the display mechanism to be efficient and sturdy without drawing attention away from what you’re actually trying to sell.

The Internet gives you access to countless store designs and layouts as well. You can also think about your favorite shops. What makes them so special? What about them drives you to keep coming back and buying more of their products? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and while exact duplication should be avoided, there’s nothing wrong with using another business as a rough template, then taking that template and shaping it into something of your own.

Lights, sounds, and smells

A lot of stores go with basic fluorescent lighting for their stores. They figure it’s been a retail staple for a while, so why bother changing it now? That may work fine in some cases, but if you’re selling candles and incense, it’s probably better to try out other, more subtler forms of lighting. Diffused lighting may be an option for your store’s interior or exterior as well. If you’re selling clothing, know that fluorescent lighting isn’t the most flattering option for the people who will be trying on clothes in your fitting rooms.

As far as music goes, you should try something that’s thematically appropriate for your store. Soft classical music works for a lot of stores who don’t want to risk distracting their customers with lyrics. If you go with music that has lyrics, it’s probably best to avoid death metal.

You also want your store to smell good, but you don’t want to smell like the woman on the train home who bathed in perfume. Understated is better than over-the-top. You don’t want people who are sensitive to certain smells to avoid your store, although if you’re selling fragrant soaps and candles, some of that may be unavoidable.

Bathroom Reader’s History of Plumbing

Posted on 09 November 2017 by sam

Plumbing–the most important invention we never appreciate until it’s gone. Plumbing has been around for millennia, and it plays a major role in our health and in our society. Here’s a brief timeline of some of the hallmarks of plumbing.

2600 BCE. Almost as soon as humans switched from a nomadic lifestyle into an agricultural civilization, they started developing systems to carry water. In the Indus Valley Civilization (circa 2600 BCE), citizens developed basic pipe systems to transport water, as well as bathing areas with drains and basic septic tanks.

2000 BCE. The ancient Chinese developed basic pipelines out of bamboo, although we have evidence for deep-water wells in China long before that.

1900s BCE. First evidence of a flushable toilet in ancient Greece. The ancient Greeks also developed pressurized shower systems.

800 BCE to 476 CE. The plumbing system of ancient Rome is one of the most famous examples of early plumbing. The first sewers in Rome date from between 800 and 735 BCE. Roman plumbing grew to include public baths, a complex sewer system, and indoor plumbing. The Roman aqueducts allowed for large volumes of water to be transported to people to use for bathing and drinking and then be flushed away! You wonder if they employed professional drain cleaners. Unfortunately, the Romans built their pipes with lead, and some scientists hypothesize that the “madness” that comes from lead poisoning played a large part in the downfall of the Roman Empire.

1596 CE. John Harington invented a flushable toilet as a present to his godmother, Queen Elizabeth I. Although the Queen was enthusiastic about the toilet, she was apparently terrified of the sound it made when it flushed.

1531-today. “Sewage farms,” some of which still operate today, provide a method of disposing of wastewater by applying it to crop production. Sewage farms were and are used all over the world.

  1. The English Regency Shower was created, which pumped water from a lower basin to a cistern directly above the bathers’ head.
  2. The first commercially available toilet paper appeared. Bless.
  3. The first sewage treatment plant in the United States was built in Worcester, Massachusetts. Water treatment and safety had become a concern with the Industrial Revolution, and more and more polluted water went into the streets, bearing waterborne illnesses. Other methods of treating water include desalinization, chlorination, and fluoridation
  4. The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanicals Officials was established and began work on a sanitation code and code to fight against bad plumbing practices.

1950s. High-pressure water jetting was invented. Hydro jetting is a method of cleaning and unclogging drains and pipes by shooting high-pressure water streams to remove buildup in pipes. Hydro jetting is still used today, and captures, filters, and reuses water.

1974 to present. In 1974, the US passed the Safe Drinking Water Act, and from that point, the US has continued to pass and amend legislation regarding water safety, efficiency, and usage to ensure sanitation and conservation.

  1. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals include access to plenty of clean water on a global scale.

The Importance of Home Inspections

Posted on 07 November 2017 by sam

Searching for a home can be exhausting. In fact, it can be so tiring that when you find a home you want that’s in your price range, you may be tempted to just skip the home inspection entirely before signing off on the deal. This is not a good idea. Home inspections are a critical step in both buying and selling a house. You need a home inspection to get a full picture of that house you want so desperately to buy.

Knowledge is power

It may help to compare buying a home to dating. Even if you’re not pulling up an app and swiping left on homes you don’t like and right on homes you do like, buying a home is still a major emotional investment. If you don’t act carefully and purposefully, you’re going to end up with a dud.You don’t want to be like your friend who is ready to move in with a girl a week after he meets her. When you fall for a person (or a house), it’s easy to fall hard and fall fast, but you still need to protect yourself. We’ve all seen the cheesy Lifetime movies where a woman meets a guy, falls in love with him, and gets married, only to discover his three previous wives all died under mysterious circumstances. A home inspection won’t reveal any dead bodies in the basement (hopefully), but it might reveal major problems with the sewer lining in your house. If you discover that before you take possession of the house, you may be able to work out a deal with the seller where they pay for some or all of the repairs. That’s a lot harder to do if you’ve already signed all the paperwork.

Yes, a home inspection will cost a few hundred dollars, but it’s better to spend that money now than to spend four times that a few months from now when you discover the roof is crumbling and will need to be replaced as soon as possible.

Get a good agent on your side

Another way to avoid any nasty surprises is to find a good real estate agent. Look around your city and region and ask for recommendations. Remember that local real estate agencies can often provide a better experience than huge national ones. That’s because they know the area incredibly well. Let’s say you’re looking for homes for sale in Fairfield Township when you discover that a work colleague just purchased a home there that she loves. Ask what agent she used, and then give them a call.

An ethical agent will show clients the house that exists, not the house that the clients wish existed. That means they won’t try to hide any ugly details about the home’s past. Most of us would probably want to know if we’re looking at a house that was the site of a double homicide three years ago. We might buy it anyway, but we’d want to know beforehand in case our new neighbors don’t one day greet us with, “So glad to see someone bought the murder house!”

Good agents will also encourage their clients to get a home inspection, even if the bank doesn’t require it. They know that most people buying a house plan to live there for a good long time, and they want to do everything in their power to make your dream home a reality.