Are you interested in SELF-EMPLOYMENT?  Then you might find one of these articles handy:

Skills That Pay the Bills: Self-employment for Homesteaders by Regina Anneler

Lessons Learned About Starting a Business by Gretchen Gundrum

Your Business Niche by Carolyn Evans-Dean

Got the Blues?  It’s a Good Thing, if They're Blueberries!  by Ed Mashburn

Setting Up a Website by Elizabeth Connick

Butter 'N' Eggs - Without the Manure! by Barbara Bamberger Scott

Selling What You Make, Online  by Jeremy Pellani

Black Walnuts: Pennies from Heaven, by Neil Shelton

Obtaining Self-Employment by Tracy Breen

$1,700 in the First 4 Months: My Homestead Income by Kristin Embry

Self-Employment: Are You Sure You Really Need a Job? by Neil Shelton

Marketing Homestead Products by Regina Anneler

You CAN Afford Your Homestead Dream, Part I by Tony Colella

You CAN Afford Your Homestead Dream, Part II by Tony Colella



Home Winterization Anyone Can Tackle by Doug Smith  

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Doors:  By their very nature slab doors are usually not drafty themselves.  It's how they fit and seal within the frame, or oftentimes how the frame and adjoined trim are sealed within the wall, that is an issue.  Start by looking to see if the door is sealing against the jamb within the frame.  Newer doors will have a rubber blade- or strip-style seal up both sides and across the top.  Factory seals are usually secured by a vinyl or metal strip screwed to the door facing.  Older wooden exterior doors will likely have a felt strip nailed, stapled or glued to the facing, if it has anything at all.  Close the door and inspect from the outside to see if the door is firmly touching the seal.  If not it's definitely time to replace the seal. 

If it's a matter of the seal being worn broken down from the effects of weather, new blade or strip-type seals are readily available at the local hardware or farm and home store.  Simply remove the old seal and put a duplicate in its place.  If you find the door doesn't have a seal, or wear and time has taken its toll on the door to the point the old factory-style seal will no longer work, consider installing one of the easy-to-use self adhesive foam strip seals.  Start by measuring the length of the vertical runs up the sides of the door as well as the horizontal run at the top.  The foam seal will come in a roll.  Simply measure the lengths needed and cut with scissors.  Start at one end and peel away the adhesive covering and stick the seal to the inside edge of the door jamb.  On the sides it works best to start at the top and work your way down ending at the threshold.  While very inexpensive, these foam seals can be very effective in keeping out drafts.

A gap at the bottom of a door can be fixed by installing a new threshold or door sweep strip.  Thresholds generally come in aluminum, vinyl or wood.

Threshold seals for the bottom of the door come in two main forms—a vinyl “bulb” seal that attaches to the threshold, or a “sweep” that attaches to the bottom interior face of the door.  Bulb seals require slightly more skills, but even at that basic hand-tools are all that's needed… usually a small handsaw, screwdriver and scissors.  Remove the rubber bulb seal from its framework, and measure and cut the frame to fit over the threshold of the door.  Secure it down with the supplied screws.  Then measure and trim the rubber or vinyl bulb seal to the correct length and reattach in the frame—usually a simple press fit.

Another time-honored way to attack the problem is with a sweep seal.  There are many kinds available including rubber and vinyl, and one that looks like thousands of short nylon broom bristles.  A rubber or vinyl sweep is usually used for residential applications.  The seals attach in one of two ways, a screw-on vinyl or metal strip which holds the rubber or vinyl sweep in place, or a self-adhesive backing… a simple trim to fit, peel and stick application.  A bulb seal might take 30 minutes or more to install, while a peel-n-stick sweep seal can be installed in five minutes or less. 

The next step is to assure you're not losing heat or gaining cold air through a poorly-fitted door or window frame.  The steps for installing a window or door have improved tremendously in the past several decades.  Rubberized adhesive membranes and better replacement door and window designs allow an installer to really “button up” a window or door into a wall nowadays.  Most older openings in walls were not installed with such attention to potential air leaks around the perimeter.

While resealing a door or window is not as fast or easy as adding a self-adhesive foam strip or sweep to the bottom of the door, taking the extra steps will pay in big dividends in cost savings from this point forward.  Here's what I suggest.  Start by removing either the exterior or interior trim around a door or window.  Either way the main concern is always that the trim will split where it is nailed in place.  Work with a small pry bar and slowly work your way along the length of the trim pieces.  Once the trim is removed set it aside in a safe place.  Now look between the door frame and wall framing.  What is there? If your house is old or exceptionally draft it's likely you won't find anything by air hanging out in there, and a few nails or screws holding the door frame in place. 

Generally the best winterization bang for your buck is attic insulation.  Installing more roll insulation is simple.  Measure, cut the insulation with a utility knife, and lay it in place.

There are two approaches here.  The first is to loosely stuff the open area with batton insulation.  You don't want to tightly wad insulation into a hole.  It is much more effective if left loosely packed, but be sure to see that it touches all edges.  The other option, which I thoroughly enjoy, is filling those open areas with expanding spray foam.  Several companies manufacture the spray-able foam in disposable cans, and it comes in regular or “high fill”.  You must use caution when filling a boxed in area with high fill foam because the expansion from it's normal chemical reaction can potentially flex boards and cause a door or window to bind.  But if you have trim from one side or another of the door or window frame removed you can fill the entire crevice with foam and let the excess expand outside the opening. 

Once the foam had had a chance to set up, use a knife or hacksaw blade to trim off the excess flush with the door or window frame.  Reattach the facing trim and you have a perfectly-sealed perimeter to block out the scavenging cold air.

Windows:  Newer homes usually have double or triple-pane vinyl or metal clad windows.  The air gap between the multiple layers is filled with a gas which displaces oxygen and aids in heating and cooling and ultraviolet protection.  Many older homes will have single-pane windows, likely set in wood frames.  There's little in the way of aid for help in cooling or heating … except maybe to cool in the winter and heat in the summer.  A single pane of glass serves as a heat sink, reaching an average of the temperatures both on the inside and outside.  It wicks cold to the hot side, and heat to the cold side.  And most old windows also suffer from dried out and cracked glazing which held the glass panes in the wooden frames anyway.

Single pane or other drafty windows can be made more efficient by installing a temporary plastic insulation kit.

The answer to less drafty windows for years was the addition of storm windows.  First in aluminum and then later vinyl frames, storm windows provided a first line of defense against the winter's cold, and a screen window to keep vermin out when windows were opened in the summertime prior to today's practice of using central air cooling and never letting the fresh air in. 

In homes with single glass windows with the benefit of storm windows you'll want to make sure the lower glass is down and in place for the winter.  While nowhere near as efficient as dual pane windows, having that second glass as a wind break can make a significant difference.  Removing and replacing window glazing compound is more of a handyman skill than a easy homeowner fix, but if you're handy and your windows are falling into disrepair you might want to familiarize yourself with the relatively easy fix.  A lesser temporary fix is to closely examine the entire window and fill any cracks or gaps around the glass panes with exterior-grade caulk.  The repairs will not look as original or smooth as glazing compound, but will keep out drafts and keep in heat.

The low-cost window winterization step that anyone can do is a plastic sheet shrinkable film such as the ones made popular by 3M corporation.  The only tool required to apply the film, which becomes akin to an additional pane of glass, is a pair of scissors or sharp knife and a tape measure or ruler.  Start by measuring the size of the window frame.  Now cut the sheet of clear film one inch larger than the frame.  Next, apply the double-sided tape to the window frame, then starting at the top apply the film and work downward keeping it taunt.  A better looking fit can be had by applying heat to the face of the film with an electric handheld hair dryer.  Films can be applied to the exterior of the window as another option.  While not the most visually appealing, the temporary window applications can offer significant savings for only a few dollars each.  One window film can be installed in 10 to 20 minutes start to finish.

Exterior Surfaces:  The next step is addressing any cracks or gaps found in the siding, soffits or roofline.  Small gaps in wood sheet goods or board and batten exterior can be patched with wood putty.  Gaps where vinyl siding meets other surfaces can often be repaired by slightly shifting the siding pieces.  Normally vinyl siding is merely a cosmetic covering anyway.  The walls will either have a layer of foam insulation or an older layer of siding beneath.  When installed properly vinyl siding trim assures moisture is kept out.  If your siding was not installed properly and there are gaps where walls intersect or the siding meets other materials such as masonry flues, you might consider using exterior-grade caulk to seal the openings.

Of all winterization measures discussed so far, all can be done by a homeowner with minimal skills or tools required.  The final winterization measure mentioned so far requires more skill and is best left to a handyman or other carpenter.  Flashing repairs around flues and chimneys and where differing roof angles meet should be left to someone with the proper tools and know-how.  Fortunately the country is rich with handymen and neighbors who possess all kinds of fix-it skills.  Many will do small jobs for honest pay, or even trade skills for other labor or goods.

Other Winterization Measures:  With the exterior better sealed, now it's time to turn your attention to the interior.  There area several simple, inexpensive things you can do to save on heating costs.  The next several suggestions are listed in no particular order, but all are good ideas to address.

Consider more insulation in the attic—One of the best investments in winterization (best because you can get good returns for the investment) is adding more attic insulation.  I know, reading the labels of insulation packages can be mind-boggling.  But it doesn't have to be.  Just know that more is usually better.  You should have a minimum of a foot (12 inches) if insulation in the attic laying on the top of the ceiling.

Like so many things, the higher the insulating properties (the larger “R” value) the higher the cost will be.  But do what you can afford, keeping in mind that anything is better than nothing, and more is better than a little.  Just remember that when you lay out the insulation it should be snug to the exterior walls to eliminate any air gaps.  And insulation works best if not packed too tight.  It should maintain nearly the same “fluff” it has when unrolled from the package.  Cutting and installing can be done with a utility knife and tape measure. 

Electrical receptacles—any openings in exterior walls, even openings on the interior side only, can let in cold air from inside the walls.  Electrical outlet and switch boxes are cut into walls, often with small gaps between the boxes and interior wall covering.  Those gaps can be a quarter-inch wide.  A typical box is 4-by-2 inches.  That quarter-inch gap around the perimeter is equal to a 1-by-3 inch hole in your wall.  Let's say your home has 10 outlets or switches on exterior walls.  All total, that's equivalent to a 5-by-6 inch hole in the interior wall letting cold air in.  You'd certainly want to patch that hole, wouldn't you? Well you can for pocket change.

The initial steps are taking to seal up the exterior, turn your attention to assuring pipes are wrapped as needed.

Hardware stores and home centers sell outlet gaskets, thin foam rectangles that sit behind the faceplate of a switch or receptacle and insulate the gap between the box and surrounding wall board.  Installing them is the easiest repair discussed yet.  Simply remove the cover plate of the outlet or switch, slip the foam gasket in place, and replace the cover.  It's that simple but can really save you from heating unwanted outside air. 

Water lines: In many cases wrapping water lines with insulation is unnecessary.  But if the crawlspace of a home is not sealed up—such as a mobile home with inadequate underpinning—or a water line runs along an exterior wall of the foundation, then you might want to consider covering it with insulation or installing a heat tape.

In the case of the example home mentioned in this story, the homeowner, this author, made a major engineering mistake while rerouting water lines one summer day several years ago during the kitchen remodel and snaked the water lines for the faucet and dishwasher along an exterior footing in an area that has only about two inches of clearance between the soil and bottom of the floor joists.  The next winter I discovered, to my own dismay, that when the temperature dropped below 15 degrees outside for more than 24 hours or so that my water lines, both hot and cold, would freeze. 

The lines were not wrapped with insulation or a heat tape.  They sit just inches in from the concrete footing and practically lay on top of the ground.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the cold wicks through the soil and quickly reaches the PVC pipes.  After a few freeze instances early that first winter I temporarily removed a couple siding boards from the exterior wall and insulated the pipes as best as possible with little space to work.  The afterthought fix has helped considerably, but during prolonged times with temperatures hovering around 5 Fahrenheit or less I am sure to leave that particular faucet dripping as a precaution.  Never run water lines along exterior walls if it can possibly be avoided! Simple stuff a plumber would know, but not a novice first-time homeowner. 

Keep the furnace clean—Replace the furnace filter regularly.  Although it sound simple, how many people actually do it religiously? Not the people I know, anyway.  But it pays to create a routine of switching out filters on a regular basis.  Old houses seem to manufacture dust at a rapid rate, so I switch out my furnace filters every month.  In a newer, less productive dust factory that might only be required once or twice a heating season.  But find what works best for your furnace and then mark a reminder on a calendar.

We heat with a combination of an electric furnace during mild fall and spring days, and a wood furnace during hard winter.  At the end of each heating season I clean the ashes from my wood furnace and coat the interior of the firebox with a film of used oil.  I tie a rag to a stick and use it as a mop to apply the oil.  It keeps down the likelihood of rust forming during summer when heating and cooling can create moisture on metal surfaces.  I also sweep my chimney good at the same time.  Come wood heating season I climb on the roof and make a visual inspection of the flue with a flashlight to assure birds have not built a nest in the pipe.  Then I'm ready to fire the furnace for the season.  The amount of oil I use in the spring for coating the firebox is only a half a quart or so at little cost.  I bought my chimney brush and fiberglass cleaning rods to attach it to several years ago, and I intend to use the same setup until I'm too old to keep up with a woodstove.

Other steps that can keep heating costs down include keeping your heat source maintained. For wood burning stoves or furnaces that means a clean flue. A brush and cleaning rods are generally a one-time purchase that will last year after year.

Reverse the ceiling fans—Most ceiling fans have a small switch near the bottom that allow the user to reverse the electric motor.  In the summertime the blades should be turning counter-clockwise, drawing heat up and away from center of the room.  In the winter the blades should turn clockwise, pushing the warmer air (hot air rises, remember that from high school science class) downward and causing it to recirculate through the room. 

Clean gutters and yard debris—One last winterization tip is to take time and clean out the gutters after the last leaves have fallen and before winter's dampness starts freezing ice on the roof.  Clean gutters and downspouts will not necessarily keep your home warmer in winter, but it will certainly make it last longer.  Winter involves lots of water—rain, freezing rain, sleet, snow—all of which needs an easy way to get off your roof and away from your home's exterior. 

Also, look to make sure any landscaping you might have done during the summer months hasn't created drainage issues around the foundation.  Adding a flower bed or regrading a section of lawn can cause runoff to divert toward the house instead of away.  Check immediately after a heavy fall or early winter rain for signs of water pooling near the foundation. 

Winter can really be trying, and especially to a homeowner.  But by taking the initiative to correct a few minor concerns and staying on top of any issues, you can have a warm, inviting oasis from Old Man Winter's foul breath.  Robert Byrne is credited for saying “Winter is nature's way of saying 'Up yours'.”  But by following these helpful tips just discussed you can have the final say in how winter treats you.




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