The In-Hand Trail Course – Obstacle by Obstacle

In-hand trail is a relatively new class that has been added to many breed associations and some open shows as well. It is a class that, just as the name implies, allows you to lead your horse through the trail obstacles. This class is usually open to yearlings and 2 year olds who are not being shown under saddle yet. The obstacles are generally the same as for standard trail classes with the exception of lope-overs.

I think that in-hand trail is a great addition to the show bill and training of any horse and is an excellent way to start teaching your horse how to maneuver obstacles. It gives young horses an additional area to focus on that isn’t as hard on their legs as lounging and teaches them to work with their handler. Not only does it prepare your horse for the usual, under saddle trail classes, it is also a great way to start teaching showmanship!

The in-hand trail class usually includes the following obstacles: a gate, walk and trot-overs, back throughs, side passing, a mail box or raincoat, a bridge, turning in a box, and walking and/or trotting through and around cones. The course may include all or just some of these obstacles and in general the bigger the show, the more and harder the obstacles! Let’s go through these obstacles one at a time and look at what has to be done and the best way to go at it.

The Gate:

Most shows now use a rope gate rather than a true wooden gate. Generally this is made of 2 jump standards set about 6 feet apart with a thick rope tied to one side and looped over the other. In the most basic form, the handler must lead the horse next to the gate, pick up the loop end, lead the horse through the gate (the opening between the jump standards) and replace the loop end to close the gate. While doing this the horse should stand calmly and walk forward willingly when asked.

The best performance of this obstacle is done when the horse is moved in the exact positions that he would be in, were someone on his back opening the gate. That means that he should stop parallel to the gate, with just enough distance for the handler to not be crowded. After being led through the gate opening, the handler should back the horse so he is again parallel to the gate and his whithers even with the spot the loop hooks over.


These consist of 3 or more ground poles that are laid a set distance apart (2 feet for walk-overs, 3 feet for trot-overs). The horse should make his way over without bumping any of the poles with his feet and ideally should set each foot halfway between the pole he is stepping over and the next pole in line. The toughest part for some handlers is the fact that they should not go over the poles with the horse! The handler should be able to walk along the side of the poles while the horse travels over the center of them. This takes a lot of practice. At home the handler should gradually work up to this by becoming farther away each time they practice their walk/trot-overs. I find that teaching a horse to lounge well assists in helping the horse feel comfortable working further away from you.

This obstacle is truly a “practice makes perfect” situation! Most horses will learn to pick their feet up after they have bumped a few logs. Once your horse is good at not knocking any poles you may want to try raising them slightly off the ground. If he can easily go over 4-6″ raise poles, he will have no problem at the shows making it over the flat poles!

Back Throughs:

Back throughs at shows maybe set up straight, L shaped, T shaped or in a zigzag. Back throughs may also consist of a triangle of cones or barrels that the horse has to back between or around. The horse should travel evenly spaced between the obstacle, turning when the handler asks. This is an obstacle that is best to take slowly!

Start your work by just asking your horse to back in a straight line. Don’t worry about ground poles or cones, just teach the horse to back up as you ask, with no resistance. Work your way up to backing straight between 2 ground poles. Build up from there, but don’t rush. Patience is key! If you get upset with your horse for not doing it right, he will remember that and start giving you problems every time you get to a back through.

Side Passing:

Side passing seems to be the hardest obstacle for most people. At a show you may be asked to side pass either direction and it may not be just 1 straight pole you have to go over! Side pass obstacles may be set up in an L or V where the handler must turn the horse on the haunches or forehand at the corner. The best handler will not even need to touch the horse to get him to side pass correctly, even in these difficult obstacles!

On most horses you can start teaching the side pass by holding the lead firmly (to prevent forward motion) and poking the horse in the side (right where your heel or spur would go if you were riding) until he takes a small step to the side. Every time he moves away you should release the pressure on his side, this is his reward! Again, practice, practice, practice! Eventually you will be able to just hold your hand out, by his side, and he will start to side pass.

Mail Box or Raincoat:

This is a fairly simple obstacle, but requires the horse to stand calmly and trust you. If you encounter a mail box in your trail pattern you should walk (or trot according to the pattern) your horse right up to the mail box and stop with the horse with his barrel about a foot from the mail box. The handler then opens the mail box, removes the envelope and holds it up for the judge to see and then replaces it. A raincoat is done very similarly. Stop the horse next to the raincoat (which will probably be hung over a pole bending pole or similar sturdy item), remove it and lay it across the horse’s back and then replace the raincoat to its original position.

To prepare for these obstacles your horse should stand calmly when asked and should be desensitized to you moving around him. I always over prepare my horses for these things. At home I will take the mail and raise my arm very quickly or slam the mail box open and closed. I do the same with the slicker by working up to the point where I can toss the raincoat roughly on top of the horse and even pull it over my horse’s head! Of course, you won’t do this in the show ring, but it is always better to be over prepared. That way nothing will bother your horse when in the ring.

The Bridge:

The bridge is the trail obstacle that is most commonly seen in photographs and known by all. When showing in-hand trail though, the handler is not supposed to go over the bridge with their horse! While walking along side the bridge the horse should travel straight across and centered on the bridge. He should not appear nervous or try to go quickly across but it is allowed that the horse sniff the bridge and/or puts his head low while crossing it.

Although many shows have heavy arched bridges you can start by laying a piece of plywood on the ground. This requires gradual work and may take hours to get your horse to calmly cross a full bridge, but is worth the effort. Doing this work will make your horse more comfortable walking across strange footings when you attend shows, such as grates, metal areas or entrances/exits to arenas!

Turning in a Box:

As easy as this sounds, this is a problem area for many exhibitors when it comes to trail. Most shows set up the box 6’x6′ which is not tiny, but is also not large enough for you to pivot the horse or walk in a circle. That means the handler must move both the shoulder of the horse and his hind end! …And, this must be done without entering the box (with the exception that you can step inside the corners of the box as you turn)!

This is one obstacle that I actually find easier to perform from the saddle than on the ground. When riding you can use your legs to guide the horse around the turn. From the ground you have to teach your horse that when you move your body you want him to move his in a certain way. Usually (if turning to the right), you can move the horse’s shoulder by walking toward him like you are asking for a showmanship turn. Every couple steps you will need to pause and ask the horse to move his hip toward you. This takes some practice and each horse responds differently!

Walk and Trot Throughs:

The final obstacle that you may encounter in the trail ring are walk and trot throughs. These may be set up in combination with walk/trot-overs, but generally consist of several cones being set out for the handler to walk or trot the horse between (in a serpentine or series of circles/figure eights).

Depending on the distance between cones the handler may or may not want to go around the cones as well. If they are set further apart and the horse can handle weaving through the cones, the handler should stay on one side and simply push or pull the horse around the cones. If you need to make a deeper S to be able to get through the obstacle, then the handler will probably want to weave with their horse!

The commonality between all these obstacles is the need for patience and practice. In-hand trail is not a class you can go into cold. It requires hours of hard work at home to prepare your horse for the difficult maneuvers and possibly scary obstacles. Also, don’t try to get everything into one lesson! Each horse is different and while one horse may “get it” right away, another horse may take a week to get the hang of the same obstacle.

Just remember, your horse will not do any better in the show ring than his average day at home!

A final word of encouragement though: Trail is a very rewarding class and although it takes lots of hard work your horse will be that much better for it. The work you put in will not only help you perform better in the trail class show ring, but will also create a more pleasant horse to be around. Your horse will learn to respect you and work with you and if you remain patient he will learn to try his hardest for you every time you ask him!

Advantages Of Building Plastic Models Kits Over Video Games

People have found many different ways to spend their spare time. Models and hobbies allow individuals to expand their horizons and keep their minds active while enjoying their leisure time. Playing video games has become one of the leading ways to spend one’s time when not working. However, it might be wise to consider the advantages of building plastic models kits over video games.

Plastic model figures can be created of boats, cars, planes, and/or even spacecraft. They can be built to any scale one desires, though 1:24 is the most common. They can also be designed and built with different levels of complexity.

As hobbies go, the items can teach skills that video games cannot. One of the first things one will learn from assembling a model is how to plan out a project in steps. One must choose a starting point and an order in which the parts are to be assembled so that the finished project looks the way one wants it to. Most kits come with a set of instructions, but there is a choice of whether to follow them in precise order or change the order up to make assembly more convenient.

It has long been said that patience is a virtue. While video games can be entertaining, they do nothing to teach one about patience. Assembling a model, on the other hand, teaches one how to be patient. This is because the glue used in assembly must be allowed to dry before one moves to the next step. Failure to do so could result in parts that have been put together falling apart under strain.

Video game companies have long touted the development of hand/eye coordination as a benefit of playing their products. However, assembling small pieces can take this farther than simply learning to push buttons. One must focus on placement of parts in the correct positions in order to assure being able to finish the project.

In addition, assembling plastic models kits can go a long way toward preparing one for a career. There are a wide range of occupations that depend on a scale model to make their jobs easier. Scientists used such items to represent things that are too small to see with the naked eye or too large to contain. Architects and engineers use scale models to visualize and design buildings, bridges, and other structures. Assembling plastic models as a child can help one learn how to place pieces in an intricate item that will be useful later.

20 Fun Facts About Mount Kilimanjaro

1. A German missionary by the name of Johannes Rebmann is considered to be the discoverer of Mount Kilimanjaro in 1848 when he explored the lower scopes and sent the Royal Geographical Society his findings, including a description of a snow-capped summit. The experts of those times doubted the real possibility of a snow-capped mountain situated near the equator.

2. In 1889, the very first successful summit occurred and it took about six weeks in comparison to today when an average climber can do it in five or six days.

3. Many of the camps located on the mountain commercialize beer.

4. The mountain stretches 5,895 meters into the sky, making it the world’s tallest free-standing mountain and at the same time, the highest point in all Africa.

5. The snow caps are rapidly diminishing. In comparison to 1912, it lost over 80% of its mass mostly because of the climate changes (global warming). By 2020, it is estimated that they will be entirely gone.

6. On June 29, 2009, eight blind climbers made it to the top of the mountain in a struggle to raise money for 52 blind children in Arizona.

7. The first person to climb the mountain in a wheelchair is South African Bernard Goosen. He did it twice; first in 2003 and it took him nine days and the second time in 2007 when it took him only six days.

8. Author of the legendary Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, famed humorist Douglas Adams, ran up to the mountain dressed in a rhinoceros suit.

9. The mountain is in fact a massive strato-volcano, formed by repeated lava flow. It has three volcanic cones, two of them being extinct while the third one, Kibo, is the highest point on the mountain and is dormant.

10. Justin Timberlake, Kenna and Lupe Fiasco are planning to climb the mountain to raise awareness for the worldwide water crisis.

11. There are six different ecological systems on the mountain, as follows: cultivated land, rainforest, heath, moorland, alpine desert and arctic summit.

12. On the lower scopes coffee is grown and is considered a major export.

13. Famous writer Ernest Hemingway wrote a short story where he captured the beauties of the mountain in the following passage describing the mountain “…as wide as all the world, great, high and unbelievably white in the sun”- he named it “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”.

14. The vast majority of the porters are hired from villages that are near the mountain. They earn between $3 – $6 / day (without tips). They carry almost all the luggage on their heads.

15. Per year, more than 20,000 people try to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

16. Climbers can take up the mountain by following one of the six established routes. Marangu Route is considered to be the most popular one.

17. Each year, almost 10 people die trying to climb the mountain.

18. A porter from the very first successful summit lived up to see the 100th celebration of the climb. He was 118 years old at that time.

19. The oldest person that successfully climbed the mountain was Valtee Daniel, aged 87.

20. It is approximated that out of every 1,000 tons of water that trickles down the mountain, 400 are directly from ice caps.

Children’s Sunday School – An Object Lesson to Reinforce Teachings

Children in Sunday school want interesting, interactive Bible activities. When you use an object lesson, you’re giving your students a way to relate the Bible lesson to their daily lives.

Toolbox Sunday School Idea

For this Bible activity, you’ll need a toolbox filled with regular and “other” tools such as the following:

*Wooden spoon

Beginning the Toolbox Object Bible Lesson

Take each tool out of the toolbox, one at a time, and explain to the children in your Sunday school class what each tool is used for. But don’t show your class the Bible until the end of the lesson. Ask your children’s church class if they were surprised to see the “other” tools you included such as the wooden spoon and ruler.

Explain that the toolbox is like a church, and we are all God’s tools. Each of the tools (each of us) is different and special, and each has its own purpose. While we expected to see the regular tools such as the hammer in the toolbox, we didn’t fully expect to see the wooden spoon and other tools. Explain that the “regular” tools are the pastors and Sunday school teachers while the “other” tools are other people. God has a use for each and every one of us, and we all have a purpose.

Now, again take each of the tools out, one at a time, and ask your children’s Sunday school class to think of ways that each tool could be used by God and what types of people might use that particular tool. For example, a hammer might be used by someone building a shed or a missionary worker. The pencil could be used to write positive notes or Bible verses.

Encourage the class to think of other tools that you have left out of the toolbox. Finally, end the Bible lesson by retrieving the Bible from the toolbox and tell the class that it is the most powerful tool that God has provided us with.

This Sunday school idea is a great way to reinforce how important the Bible is in our lives.

Canvas Oil Paintings – How to Store Them Properly

After you spend your hard earned money on the most beautiful oil painting you have ever seen, it is important to know how to store it properly until you are ready to display it for all to see. Once you are finished reading this, it may seem like there many steps to storing canvas oil paintings. However, your investment will last for many years so that your great-grandchildren will be able to enjoy the beautiful piece of art. So, keep reading and make sure you know how to properly care for and store your breath taking artwork.

First off, you will need to make sure that you have frame to store your canvas in, even if you are not planning on displaying it in the frame. If it is of size where it can be cost effectively framed, you should do so. This is so your painting is not resting on the floor and the edges will not bend and the paint will not chip. Next, it is important to buy some padding for your canvas. The best kind to buy is called polystyrene. It is kind of like the plastic form of foam. It helps canvas oil paintings from getting scratches and also prohibits dust from settling on the painting.

It is important that canvas oil paintings are stored in areas that dry, dark and cool. Also, in a place that does not have any little (or big) insects running around. The insects can not only eat away at the canvas and frames, but also their droppings have acid in them and will destroy the paint. Normally, an area that has a consistent level of humidity and does not quickly fluctuate between hot and cold is best. Keep in mind that it is not a good idea to spray the area around your canvas with an insecticide. This can ruin your investment forever.

Finally, keep your canvases standing vertical making sure that there is nothing around or behind them that could put dents into the painting. Canvas oil paintings are amazing additions to a home and for the best storage of your painting, hang it on the wall. It was created to be seen and enjoyed by all. Be sure you place it in an area that is not in direct sunlight so that it will not fade. Keeping it cool and dry will allow your painting to last for many years.

Exterior Home Painting: 3 Questions to Solve Your Dilemma

The decision to paint the exterior of your home is a nice way to improve the aesthetic appeal of the property. If you live in a cold region, change in temperatures can damage the siding as well as the exterior wooden structures. But, it doesn’t mean that you have to undertake repair work every other year. If you to take care of your home, you will be able to avoid expensive repairs in the future. If you want to protect your home, a good idea is to paint the walls and the wooden structures with good-quality paints.

If you are confused about painting your home, do not worry. You do not have to hire a home painting contractor immediately. Consider the condition of your home, your financial status and discuss the painting project with your family. Also, ask yourself the following questions to end your dilemma:

  1. When was the last time you painted the Exterior of the Home?

As the exterior part of any structure has to bear harsh weather and pollution, it requires care. And, an old painting job is not effective in providing adequate care.

If the wood siding of your home was painted 3 years ago, it is the best time to repaint it. It is because wood is susceptible to damage and can rot quickly. It is ideal to use a strong latex paint because it guarantees a durable and lasting finish on the wood siding. A paint job on the aluminum siding has an average lifespan of 5 years. So if your home has aluminum siding, make sure to consider the age of the paint job before making a decision.

  1. Does your Home provide a Nice Curb Appeal?

Visual impact is hard to beat when potential buyers are looking at residential properties. If you are thinking of selling your home, it is important to project a beautiful image of your property. Also, the exterior of a home is a good indicator of the well-being of the property. And, painting the exterior of your home is the cheapest way to create a positive impact on buyers.

  1. Does the Exterior of the Home need any Sort of Repairs?

The exterior of your home may be in dire need of repairs. But, if you ignore it, it can lead to major problems in the future. If you hire an experienced home painting contractor, he will able to highlight the problems effectively. He will not only paint your home but will also take care of minor repairs and replace damaged materials efficiently. It is like killing two birds with one stone!

Asking the right questions is a proper way of assessing the condition of your home. If you have come to the conclusion that your home needs a paint job, contact a professional. It is important to hire an expert home painting contractor because he will help you to finish the job efficiently.

Career Fashion – How To Choose A Pair Of Earrings For A Professional Image

What types of earrings go with your office attire?

How do you accessorize your business suit to enhance your professional image instead of detracting from you carefully cultivated I-mean-business business image?

Carefully chosen jewelry would certainly help. Bold earrings that draw attention to your face are a career woman’s best friend. Especially if you are on the large side.

Caution should be taken here. Bold as in earrings that are fixed to your earlobe with nothing dangling from them. Save your drop earrings and chandelier earrings for your evening dates. They have no place in the office. When you make a presentation, you do not want to distract the audience with baubles jingling jangling from your ears. That would look unprofessional.

Another thing. If you want to be taken seriously at work, cleavage should be avoided in the office environment. Cover up, dress professionally to project a business-like image.

As for accessories, a pair of earrings would be all you need.

If you have sharp features, a narrow face or angular features, round earrings and earrings with curved lines would look good on you. If your face is flat or round or wide, visually slim your face and sharpen your features with angular shapes and vertical lines.

If you normally wear drop earrings and chandeliers because these look good on you, you can switch to earrings that are longer and wear them vertically. Like round earrings? Go for oval ones instead and position them so they are longer vertically.

For work, the subtle look is best. You can’t go wrong with stud earrings. If you want to project a successful image, try diamond studs. They are subtle, but the dazzle from the diamonds would light up your skin, drawing attention to your face.

If diamonds are too expensive go for cz earrings []. These are stunning, expensive looking yet very affordable. So much so that you can even have a pair to match every outfit. You don’t have to stick to single stone stud earrings. As long as it doesn’t dangle distractingly, you can wear it to work.

For a more mature, sophisticated look, go for peals. Not just earrings. A short strand of pearls around looks elegant. Like a lady or a well groomed, successful business woman.

How To Choose Earrings For The Office [].

How to Make Bath Bombs to Treat Sore Muscles

Whether it’s from over-exercising, helping a friend move or shoveling snow, we’ve all woken up stiff and sore. Bath bombs are a wonderful way to relax sore muscles and leave you feeling better. When you make bath bombs at home, you can tailor the recipe to provide exactly the benefit you want.

A bath bomb (AKA bath fizzy) is a fizzing tablet or ball used in the bath. The active ingredients, citric acid and baking soda create a reaction in the water that releases carbon dioxide and produces bubbles like those in sparkling water.

So how do they relieve sore muscles? There are three ingredients you can use when you make bath bombs that will make them especially effective.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is one of the key ingredients that make bath bombs fizzy. Muscle soreness is caused by a build-up of lactic acid, so the key to relieving sore muscles is getting the lactic acid out. Baking soda in the bath is known to detoxify the system, and it is very effective in helping to leach lactic acid from your body.

As an added bonus, baking soda is great for the skin and leaves it feeling silky and smooth.

Epsom Salt

Epsom salt is essential to relieving sore muscles. Epsom salt is a source of magnesium and sulfate, both of which are more readily absorbed through the skin than orally, making epsom salt baths very beneficial. The sulfate draws toxins from the muscles along with lactic acid. The magnesium reduces swelling and relieves pain. Adding epsom salt when you make bath bombs doubles the muscle relaxing benefits of them.


Essential oils should always be used when you make bath bombs. If you don’t use them, you’re missing out on the opportunity to make use of them to relax, de-stress, calm anxiety or, in this case, help to relieve sore muscles. There are several essential oils that are effective in relieving sore muscles.

These include:

  • Lavender
  • Cedarwood
  • Chamomile
  • Ylang-ylang
  • Black pepper
  • Juniper berry
  • Ginger

This is my favorite recipe for making bath bombs to relieve sore muscles. It contains the baking soda, epsom salt and essential oils that you would expect, and packs the added bonus of powdered ginger. The powdered ginger isn’t some exotic ingredient – it’s just the stuff you find in the spice section of your supermarket. In fact, you probably have some in your cupboard.

Muscle Relaxing Bath Bomb Recipe


1 c. baking soda

½ c. citric acid

½ c. tapioca starch

1/3 c. epsom salts

2 tbsp. powdered or ground ginger

2 tbsp. shea butter, melted

12 drops lavender essential oil

8 drops ginger essential oil

8 drops ylang-ylang essential oil

5 drops black pepper essential oil

Spray bottle of witch hazel


Sift dry ingredients together in a large glass bowl. Combine shea butter and essential oils, drizzle over dry mixture and mix with hands. Spritz with witch hazel as needed to hold mixture together. Pack into molds, pressing firmly.

How To Do Beginner Tricks on a Ripstik

There are tons of awesome free style tricks you can do on the Ripstik. I am going to talk about some beginner tricks for you to try. Before you try any Ripstik tricks make sure that you are comfortable riding your board. Once you are comfortable and confident you can try out some of these great tricks.

First try a manual. A manual is where you simply lift the front wheel off the ground. The longer you hold the manual the cooler it looks. Try balancing for long distances riding on just your back wheel. That is called a manual. A nose manual is when you do the same thing except that you lift your back wheel off the ground and ride the board balancing on your front wheel.

Another cool beginner trick is the step over. Once you know how to do a manual and nose manual the step over should be a piece of cake. To do the step over lay out an object like a broom stick. Approach the broom stick on your board and when you come up to it lift the front of the board over then immediately lift the back of your board over the stick. That is the step over. To make this trick more difficult use a larger object or try stepping up on to something like a curb.

A hang 9 and hang 10 are tricks that look very flashy and cool, but are not that difficult to do. A hang 9 is when you are riding your board normally and you take your front foot and place it on the back deck and ride for as long as you can. This trick leaves the front of your Ripstik empty and both feet are riding on the back deck. To do this trick put your back foot directly over the back wheel, if you put it to far back when you lift your front foot the front of the board with pop up into the air. Gain some speed and get your balance then quickly pull your front foot back to the back deck. Hold it for as long as you can, then return your foot back to the front deck and continue riding, that is your hang 9. Doing a hang 10 is a little more difficult but looks even cooler. Do the trick with the same technique but instead pull your back foot off the board and ride with both feet on the front deck, then return your back foot to the back deck.

A trick that I do not have a name for but is super fun to ride is simply trying to balance on a curb. The best is to find a curb that has a short drop on one side and grass on the other. A side walk with grass on the side is perfect. Ride up to the curb side and try to ride the length of the curb balancing and not falling off. No other board allows you to do this trick because no other board but the Ripstik has the two wheel design. There are some kids on who ride a 137 foot curb without falling off. These are all the tricks I will discuss in this article, so be safe when you attempt new tricks, but mostly just have fun.

Creating an Effective Fire Evacuation Plan

In the event of a fire, time is of the essence. Fire spreads quickly, and in the blink of an eye, rooms can become engulfed in smoke and flames. As a business leader, you must quickly and safely evacuate your employees from your building, using a well-crafted fire evacuation plan that you and your crisis management team practice regularly.

There are numerous hazards from a fire, including smoke, which blocks vision, stings eyes and causes asphyxiation; heat, which can reach up to 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit and causes both external and internal burns; and poisonous gases from burning items, which can cause disorientation, drowsiness and other harmful symptoms. Your safety depends completely on advanced planning – so if you don’t already have a fire evacuation plan in place, start working on one immediately.

Establish a Crisis Management Team and Fire Escape Routes

If you haven’t already established a crisis management team, now is the time to do so. Choose select members from your employees who you can trust to organize, maintain and update your crisis management plans and to utilize your emergency notification systems. These employees are responsible for overseeing the evacuation and the safety of your employees as they escape from the building.

Additionally, your fire evacuation plan relies on the establishment of a fire escape route (with alternatives) from every floor of the building. Work with your property managers to determine the best routes in the building. Plan for blocked stairwells, loss of electricity and more – once you’ve established these plans, make sure that your crisis management team members are familiar with this information, as they’ll be responsible for leading your employees to safety. It’s also important to note that evacuation routes should not include the use of elevators, as they will most likely be recalled to the first floor of the building and will be inoperable in the event of a fire.

There’s a Fire in My Building – What Do I Do First?

If someone in your building spots a fire, they should activate the nearest fire alarm and immediately call 911 – after which, they should then contact the nearest member of your crisis management team to inform them of the emergency as soon as possible. The crisis team member should then contact the team leader, who should send out an emergency message to all employees, explaining that there is a confirmed fire in the building and that everyone must evacuate to the pre-designated, safe evacuation area.

Working with Your Crisis Management Team

After informing all employees to evacuate the building, your crisis management team members must organize the evacuation. In your fire evacuation plan, each member of the crisis team should be assigned a designated area to cover (e.g. the first and second floors, or the cafeteria and break room area), and these members should be prepared to lead employees in this designated area through the fire escape route to safety.

For instance, if your fire evacuation plan details an escape route that directs your employees to the stairwell, the crisis management team member on that floor should first ensure that the stairwell is safe and smoke-free prior to leading employees onward. If there is smoke – or if a doorknob is hot (meaning the fire has spread to the next room) – crisis team members are responsible for leading employees to alternate routes.

After employees have evacuated the office, crisis team members should return to their designated areas to ensure that all employees have been evacuated (for instance, someone may be injured or may have missed the emergency notification message). Crisis management team members should do a sweep of their designated areas and utilize a visual system to signify that each room has been checked and that it is cleared – this should be described in your fire evacuation plan prior to any emergency, so that all team members are on the same page. This visual system can be anything from placing a sticky note on each door to either opening or shutting doors so that other team members know that the rooms are clear.

Crisis management team members should be sure to check any bathrooms, closets and communal areas in each designated location prior to leaving the building. If a team member doesn’t see anyone during this sweep, they should take note of this information and report it to the crisis leader. If someone is missing, however, team members should reconcile that list and report it to the crisis team leader at the evacuation area, so you can better determine the status of any missing/injured individuals.

Plan for Employees with Disabilities

Your fire evacuation plan should include assisting employees with disabilities – crisis management team members should make sure that any disabled employee has a designated “partner” (or partners) nearby to help them get past any physical obstacles, the most common of which will be stairwells. There are many ways to accomplish this, including utilizing a stair chair or forming a two-man carry safely down the stairs. You should also contact your property managers about potentially using the freight elevator to assist with employees with disabilities. Select your designated partners beforehand, and make sure that these partners stick together, so that disabled employees can be assisted throughout the evacuation process.

If there is no way to evacuate these employees safely, crisis management team members should make sure that they remain in a designated safe room and should then alert the crisis leader, so that first responders know to immediately assist these employees.

Designated Evacuation Areas

Your fire evacuation plan should include a designated evacuation location – when employees are evacuating the building, they should evacuate to this safe location so that everyone knows where to go and you can better keep track of your employees. In addition to choosing a primary evacuation location, you should have a secondary location designated as a back-up, just in case the primary location is no longer safe or is unavailable.

Tell employees where to go by using these locations in your emergency notification systems – and be specific. Don’t just say, “Evacuate to the primary evacuation location,” because employees may be confused – or they may not remember. Use the name of the actual location (e.g. “Evacuate to Hyde Park”) so there is no confusion.

When choosing locations for your fire evacuation plan, pick one evacuation area that is closer to the building and another that is more than one block away, just in case you are facing a disaster that affects the entire street. For instance, an explosion may occur that renders the entire block unsafe, in which case you’ll want to evacuate to a different street. In addition, each location should be on either side of the building. This way, you’ll be able to choose a safe location, no matter which way the wind is blowing, which will prevent your employees and crisis management team members from breathing harmful gases in the air – like radioactive chemicals or toxic fumes – while waiting at the evacuation point.

Communicating With First Responders

Your fire evacuation plan should also include information about how and what to communicate with first responders. At the evacuation location, the crisis management team leader should inform first responders that each floor has been checked and to provide a list of any missing employees, as well as information regarding which floor they should be on (or were last seen on). Crisis leaders should also report any injuries to first responders so that these employees can be helped as quickly as possible. Crisis team members should work with first responders to make sure that your employees are not blocking any emergency routes that they need to use.

During this time, it’s important that crisis management team leaders establish a point-of-contact with an individual who can provide status updates on the situation. For instance, if you experienced a small, isolated fire, make sure that you are speaking with your property managers, who can communicate the current situation, ensuring that you receive the all-clear prior to re-entry.

Re-Entry and Recovery

None of your employees should re-enter the building unless it has been cleared by first responders and your property managers. Your fire evacuation plan should address potential damage from smoke or sprinklers – for instance, did the sprinklers damage your computer equipment or your servers? Should you move the IT team to an alternate location? Is the building severely damaged? You may need to enact your business continuity plan after a fire – but only after ensuring that your employees are as safe as possible.

Practice Your Fire Evacuation Plan

It’s one thing to have a sound fire evacuation plan – it’s another to actually practice it. Due to building codes and OSHA laws, it’s almost always legally required to perform a fire evacuation in your building at least once per year. How and when that drill is required differs by area – but you and your crisis management team members should always practice this drill for your employees’ safety.

Fire drills can be disruptive, which may lead to delays in practicing company-wide evacuations; however, there are ways to make practicing your fire evacuation plan more pleasant and less distracting. Alert employees that the drill will take place “sometime this week” or “sometime today,” and tell the company that everyone needs to participate as if they are facing an actual crisis.

Additionally, you can schedule fire evacuation drills in either the fall or the spring, so employees are more likely to participate in the drill (due to the mild weather) instead of just skipping out that day. Participating employees should be rewarded with a pleasant incentive, like ice cream, at the evacuation point, to thank hard-working individuals for their cooperation.

How and when you practice your fire evacuation plan is up to you, but you should make sure that your crisis management team members – and all employees – are aware of the steps they need to take to evacuate safely.

Horseshoes – Building Your Own Pits

So you have played a few games of horseshoes and want a more authentic feeling? Tired of horseshoes bouncing all over the grass? Time to make some horseshoes pits!

You can always construct a professional horseshoe pit, but for the purpose of this article I am going to explain how to create a “backyard” pit. First thing you should do is drive the stakes into the ground. Each stake should be 40 feet apart from eachother. You also want to pick out relatively level playing ground for both sides. When you drive the stakes in the ground they should go in at an angle. You do not want to have stakes standing straight up in the air because ringers can bounce off of them easily. Also, from constant contact with the horseshoes, the stakes will begin to slant backwards which makes it extremely difficult to get a ringer. The angle of the stakes should be roughly 12 degrees (about three inches) pointing towards eachother. From a pitcher’s view, the stake should be slanted towards you when throwing.

The stakes are about 36 inches, and you want to drive them into the ground until about 14 inches remains above the earth. One thing that cannot be avoided during play is the slanting of the stakes. After enough horseshoes hit them then will begin to move around. The dirt surrounding the stakes will loosen up a bit and make the stake a little unstable. While other pit material (explained later) helps, the stakes will still become loose after enough play.

To combat the stakes moving around you can dig a hole where the pit is. Dig down about 8 inches. The hole does not have to be huge, but should be large enough to put a piece of 4×4 lumber in there. The piece of lumber should be about 8 to 10 inches long. Once you have the lumber placed in the hole, take a drill and drill a hole in the lumber at a 12 degree angle. The idea is to place the stake through this hole in the wood. Once the stake is through the hole, fill it up with dirt again until it is level with the ground. Now continue to drive the stake in the ground until 14 inches remain. When horseshoes hit the stake, the lumber in the ground will help the stability and prevent some movement.

Another great idea (if you are skilled enough to do so) is to weld a metal plate to the horseshoe at the 14 inch mark. Make sure to weld the plate to the stake at an angle as well. With the metal plate and the lumber in the ground, the stake will be able to take most backyard beatings. Just remember to keep the stakes aligned and pointed towards eachother when doing this. There is nothing worse than making these horseshoe pits and then realizing that the stakes are not aligned correctly.

Now that the stakes are firmly in the ground it is time to create the border that defines the horseshoe pits. Take 3 pieces of 4×4 lumber as this will be the border for one side. The backside of the pit should measure about 36 inches. Then cut the other two pieces of lumber to be about 48 to 60 inches. Drill holes in these pieces of lumber large enough to fit a piece of rebar through it (or some other tough metal spike). Drill 2 holes in the 36 inch piece and at least 3 holes in the 48 to 60 inch pieces. The stake should be roughly 1 foot away from the back of the pit and in the center of the sides. Now lay the lumber down in the correct positions (the open end should face the opposite stake) and drive the rebar through the lumber into the ground. The rebar should be at least 1 to 2 feet long. Now repeat these steps for the other stake.

You are doing great! You now have the stakes placed properly and securely in the ground with sturdy borders surrounding it on three sides. The next step is to dig up the first 2 to 4 inches of dirt. You now have to make a decision as to what type of pit materials you want to use. Popular choices are dirt, sand, and clay. If using dirt, make sure the soil is loose in the entire pit. If you are going to use sand or clay, then pour it in the pit. If you dig up 4 inches of dirt, pour about 2 to 3 inches of sand or clay in the pit.

Time for the finishing touches! Place two markers in front of each of the stakes. One marker should be 3 feet in front of the stake, the second should be 13 feet in front of the stake. Be sure to have the marker be about 3 feet wider than the pits on each side. If you have followed the measurements so far your pit should be 36 inches wide. The markers should be about 9 feet long. Or, you can just have 2 markers each three feet long and place then next to the horseshoe pits on both sides. These are the foul lines. Any child under the age of 18, women, and senior citizens can use the second foul line (13 feet in front of the stake). All other men must use the foul line that is 2 feet in front of the horseshoes stakes.

Now take a step back and look at your brand new horseshoe pits. Grab a few of your friends, your horseshoes, a few cold ones, and game on!

Home Renovations That Are Illegal to Do on Your Own

It doesn’t matter how handy or knowledgeable you are, there are some home renovations that are against the law to do yourself. There are many reasons why these projects are illegal to “DIY“, but it is mostly due to the fact that they involve complicated codes and procedures, which require specialized licensing, training, and equipment. Examples include water heater replacement, plumbing work, lead paint removal, framework construction, and more. Aside from being legally prohibited, performing these types of projects on your own can also void warranties, jeopardize insurance claims, lower property value, and even hinder resales. Continue reading to review some illegal DIY home improvement projects, so you can better protect yourself, your home, and all that’s in it, from trouble.

DO NOT Do This at Home

There are many home improvement projects that are not permitted to do on your own, and for good reason. These include electrical work, light fixture installation, fuel conversions, large tree removal, mold remediation, animal removal, HVAC repair, asbestos removal, and more. For instance, if you want to replace your electric stove with a gas stove, you would need to convert your home’s fuel-type. This involves installing gas lines, doing electric work, and much more, not to mention strict safety codes to prevent chemical explosions. For this reason, this is a job for a team of licensed professionals with formal training and experience. Here are some additional home improvement projects that are require a licensed professional:

Lead Paint Removal – Old homes and structures built before 1980 are likely to be painted with lead-based paint. In order to remove lead-based paint safely, you must have the proper knowledge, training, tools, and of course, licensing. That is because lead is deadly, and requires specialized methods of removal to ensure safety.

Water Heater Replacement – Hot water heaters can be dangerous appliances if handled improperly. If you need to replace or install a water heater, you’ll need to have it done by a licensed professional. It requires strict code obedience, sensitive electrical work, and fuel line management.

Garage Door Spring Replacement – This may sound like an easy job, but one wrong move can be severely injurious or even fatal. Over time, garage door springs lose tension and require replacement, and part of the process of removing the old and installing the new is to release and return the tension. A single slip of the hand can cause the spring to fly at your body, resulting in serious injury.

Wall Removal – If you are dreaming of an open-floor concept, don’t just grab your sledgehammer and start demolition. Some walls are strictly structural, so taking one down can be extremely dangerous. For that reason, it requires official building permits. It is necessary to hire a general contractor is you wish to remodel or convert a space.

Septic System Pumping – Although it is considered an undesirable chore, many homeowners look into doing it themselves to save a buck or two. But this is not a good idea. Not only does septic pumping require specialized equipment in order for it to be safe and effective, it requires official city permits for authorized waste disposal.

Why I Love My WMF Pressure Cooker

My WMF pressure cooker has made my cooking so much easier, not only do I save time, I also cook my meals more energy efficient and I can keep all the healthy nutrients IN the meal instead of them escaping the pot while I cook.

But back to the beginnings: WMF is a German kitchen supply manufacturer whose history goes back in the mid 19th century.

They have always been known as quality supplier (Made in Germany) for kitchen hardware and that’s why I decided to purchase my first pressure cooker from WMF.

But what is a pressure cooker and why would you want to have one in your kitchen?

Here’s a quick summary of what differentiates it from a regular cooker:

– you save A LOT of time (up to 70%) when you prepare your meal in a quality pressure cooker

– one of the, in my opinion, most important issues: you keep the vitamins and minerals IN the food much better than you would with regular cooking methods, the reason for that being the pressure lid that keeps the steam inside and thus the nutrients of your food

– you save energy since the cooking process is shortened

– you can prepare an entire meal in just one pot meaning less cleaning effort

– you can even use a pressure cooker to unfreeze or preserve food

WMF offers its pressure cookers in three different lines. They are called PERFECT, PERFECT PLUS and PERFECT ULTRA.

The difference between the lines lies in the handle of the lid, the higher we get in the line, the more advanced the handle and therefore the ease of use.

The cookers can be purchased as single pieces or as entire sets of different sizes. Of course, the more sizes you have, the wider the variety of the things you can cook.

The sizes start at 2.5 litres, next comes 3 litres, then 4.5 litres, 6.5 litres and the biggest one is 8.5 litres.

The maintenance efforts are so minimal, it’s almost ridiculous, it’s basically done in one minute since most of the time I only have one pot to clean.

I can remove all parts of the cooker and throw it in the dish washer (yes) and quickly clean the handle under running water.

Three years warranty by WMF closes the deal for me…

Great product, easy to use, healthy, time and energy saving way to prepare my food…

That’s why I love my WMF pressure cooker.

Solar Cookers – The Pros and Cons of the Different Types

One of the primary things to consider when buying or making a solar oven is; “what kind of foods are you planning to cook.”

This may seem obvious but it will have an effect on the ease of use, effectiveness and cooking results of different foods while using a solar cooker.

You can, of course cover all bases by building or purchasing one of each style of solar cooker,( as many people do) which would greatly increase you cooking capacity and reduce the length of cook time.

You might ask yourself; am I mostly interested in baked goods such as breads, cakes, cookies etc., or do I want to do more of the high moisture content dishes such as soups, stews, chilies and meats that are ideal for slow, low temperature cooking?

Most all of the solar cookers available in the three main classes can cook a large range of foods whether dry or moist, but some are more suited to specific kinds of foods than are others.

A good sized box cooker is capable of baking foods on a tray/baking sheet and at the same time can cook together a pot of fresh vegetables or a soup with the same satisfactory results.

Generally a box cooker, with the aid of panel reflectors, can reach very hot temperatures which are ideal for most general baking needs, but will do great for moist foods as well.

* Note: Most traditional method cookbooks will state specific temperatures for baking cakes, pies or cookies.

But you will soon find out that you can cook just fine; pretty much any kind of pastry, in a solar oven.

The most notable difference will be the lengths of time due to a lower cooking temperature…remember it just takes longer using a solar cooker.

…it is not always possible, nor is it necessary to maintain a cooking temperature of 300° F or higher in order to cook baked goods.

Higher temperatures indicated in traditional cook books are designed more for convenience, (time) and for browning, crisping, or setting of cakes and pastries. *

Solar Box cookers will usually maintain cooking temperatures between 200° F up to 350° F., depending on the type of food being cooked.

This style of solar cooker is also quite safe and usually requires very little supervision and guidance since it is difficult to burn or scorch the food.

A solar panel cooker will usually consist of a pot/pan with a plastic or glass enclosure nestled into a, three up to five sided, reflective panel for better concentration of the suns rays.

Most panel cookers are used for the cooking of foods with higher moisture content, as was previously mentioned.

But you can bake items in a panel cooker pot/pan, even though it is a little bit more challenging and restrictive with some items.

A panel cooker will usually maintain cooking temperatures between 200° F to 250° F, which is more than sufficient for most all foods.

A panel cooker does not require adjustment or alignment as often as say, a parabolic cooker.

A solar panel cooker is also one of the easiest and least expensive to make using common materials found in the home or at a hardware store.

Minimal ability and supervision is required to use a cooker of this style, and even some young children can be taught to safely use one.

Remember also, it is quite difficult to burn or overcook food in this kind of cooker.

A Parabolic Solar Cooker is generally capable of maintaining higher cooking temperatures than a box or panel style cooker and therefore can be used for grilling and even frying.

The single biggest drawback to a parabolic cooker is the need to adjust the angle and direction of the cooker more frequently than other styles of cookers, for maximum cooking efficiency.

Usually the amount of food that can be cooked at one time in a parabolic is less than in a box or panel cooker due to the size of the cooking pot or pan.

But, because the parabolic can achieve higher temperatures, and do so more quickly, foods can be cooked quicker, allowing for more individual meals to be cooked.

Due to higher temperatures and the more frequent need to adjust the cooker, an experienced user/cook is recommended while cooking as opposed to the lesser necessity with box or panel cookers.

The second most common drawback to a parabolic cooker is the higher complexity in design and build.

Many people have built very efficient and practical parabolic cookers from scratch using readily available materials, but most will admit they are more involved than other styles of solar cookers.

These cookers are usually more expensive to make, and the commercially manufactured ones, though of high quality, are also more expensive.

Well built cookers of all classes and styles though, will usually last you for years, and will provide many delicious meals if they are taken care of and treated properly.

For more information on practical application and use of the different kinds of solar cookers you can visit our site at

Cork Flooring and Pets

Estimate claim that over 60% of all households in the US either have a cat or dog. Animals such as this can wreck havoc on your flooring due to defecating, scratching and biting. You really should have a trained animal to not have it messing up your flooring, however sometimes there isn’t anything you can do to break old habits. This is why certain flooring solutions are better with pets. This article is going to explain why cork flooring is an excellent solution with pets in your home.

Cork flooring is a very durable product, able to withstand compression up to 45% and still return to its normal shape without damage. This is crucial with animals such as cats that may scratch your floor with their claws. Instead of the cork tearing it most situations it will just compress under the cats pressure and return to its normal shape when released. Dogs with sharp or large nails also won’t harm cork floors; even when running on them at high speed to greet you when you come home!

Cork is also water resistant, so it doesn’t absorb water or moisture. So, if you have a dog with a problem peeing in the house you don’t need to worry about it hurting your cork floors. However, you must clean it up as soon as possible to prevent the urine from getting behind your tiles or planks and ruining the sub floor. Even though cork can resist moisture you should still housebreak your pets to prevent unwanted damage.

Sometimes people come over that are allergic to your pets and you need to lock them up. However, even with the pets locked away there dander and hair is still present and can upset someone with allergies towards them. However, cork flooring is actually anti-allergenic. It won’t hold in pet dander or hair and it’s very easy to clean up. This is also true with pollen and other allergens. People with pet allergies will be grateful that you have a flooring solution that doesn’t lock these in.

So, as you can see cork flooring is a good combination with pets in your household. Just remember to do your best to break your pets from urinating on your new cork floors. If you want to learn more about cork flooring then you can follow the links below.