Can you spare a pint?

LIMERICK PA – A blood drive conducted by the Miller-Keystone Blood Center will be held Jan. 24 (2011; Monday) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Fred Beans Nissan, 55 Autopark Road, Limerick PA. Appointments are required and may be made by calling the blood bank at 610-926-6060.

By Michael Jacobson
Penn State Cooperative Extension

LIMERICK PA – With winter here, with temperatures dropping into the ’20s as they have so far this week across Limerick and  Lower Pottsgrove PA townships and the borough of Pottstown, and with more snow on the way, the demand is getting stronger for firewood to stoke the home hearth. In fact, the firewood market is fairly robust these days.

The definition of "coziness."

Just open the newspaper and you’ll see lots of firewood ads. Supplying firewood is an industry that provides part-time work and extra cash for families this time of the year. Many land owners also enjoy cutting firewood for their own use. It involves very little expense – to buy a chainsaw, safety equipment, wedges, a splitting maul – and use of a small pick-up truck or trailer.

Burning firewood for heat is environmentally friendly and offers good value for the money. Unlike coal, oil and gas, which are non-renewable fossil fuels that contribute greenhouse gas emissions, wood (if sustainably harvested) is a local and renewable energy resource.

How does a consumer decide what firewood to buy and where to buy it? There are three main considerations: price, quantity, and quality.

Pricing firewood

Firewood prices differ across regions and generally are higher in urban areas, more distant from the woods. Normally, prices are for wood delivered to a house, but check to see if there is an additional transportation cost, whether it is stacked or just dumped in a pile, and if the wood is split and cut to length to fit your heating appliance.

If you heat with oil, wood can save you money. If you use coal, wood won’t be as cost-efficient, but it’s a close second. Penn State Cooperative Extension draws these conclusions by measuring heating efficiency; it looks at equivalent prices per heating unit for alternative fuels.

For example, to get the same amount of heat produced by a $150 cord of firewood, in equivalent heating units you’d pay about $1.20 a gallon for heating oil or 90 cents a therm for natural gas. Of course, current prices for oil and gas are now much higher; heating oil sells for about $3 a gallon, and gas is more than $1 a therm. Compared to them at today’s costs, wood is a bargain.

A word of caution: if you buy or gather firewood, stay local. Much of Pennsylvania is under quarantine for the emerald ash borer, an insect that threatens ash trees. Another insect, although not currently found in the state, is the Asian long-horned beetle. If it gets here, could cause major damage to many of our tree species. Burning wood close to its source, therefore, makes sense and protects forests.

Firewood quantity

Tightly stacked wood makes for a good cord.

Wood is often sold by the cord. By state law, a cord is 128 cubic feet (4’x4’x8′), but can be sold in portions and must be accompanied by a statement or invoice certifying the amount sold and presented to the buyer at the time of delivery or billing. The law also says “firewood may not be advertised or sold by the truck load, the pile, the piece or any other method other than by the cord” or a fraction thereof.

The problem with the term “a truck load” is that it can refer to anything from a pick-up truck (a fifth- or a half-cord) to a pulpwood truck (carrying four or more cords).

How do you know you are getting a cord? You have to stack it. A 4’x4’x8′ pile of wood has lots of air spaces between individual sticks. The solid wood volume will vary by the diameter and length of sticks in the stack. Generally it will contain 80 to 100 cubic of wood. Haphazardly stacked wood will obviously have a lower wood-to-volume ratio than a tight and uniform stack. By insisting on having your wood neatly stacked, you get a better idea of whether it is a true cord.

Firewood quality

Here’s good news: Pennsylvania has high-density hardwood species, which are among the best burning firewood available.

Denser woods weigh up to 3 tons per cord, while lighter woods have about 1-1/2 to 2 tons per cord. Beech, birch, some maples, hickory, and oak are among the most common species in Pennsylvania and also among the densest. Many consumers prefer hardwood species for firewood because they offer more heat per volume and, when dry, are less likely to result in creosote build-up problems.

Firewood is best for burning when it has 20-percent or less moisture content, which takes a year or more of drying under roof and off the ground.

The moisture content for wood varies: green (wet) wood can have 50- to more than 100-percent moisture content; yes, wet wood actually can contain more weight in water than it does weight in wood, depending on the species. Air-seasoned wood is 20- to 25-percent moisture, and wood for furniture is about 4 to 6 percent. Burning unseasoned wood wastes energy, because the moisture has to be driven off before combustion can occur. Split wood dries out faster.

Wood can make for a happier and warmer winter. Before you make a purchase, though, check to ensure you are getting a cord worth of wood, make sure it is dry, is good quality hardwood cut to your needs, and is stacked upon delivery.

COLLEGEVILLE PA – The basics of baby-sitting, running the gamut from sitter responsibilities to what to do in emergencies, will be taught by Penn State Cooperative Extension of Montgomery County over consecutive Thursday nights between Jan. 6 and Feb. 3 (2011) from 7-8:30 p.m. at the county 4-H Center, 1015 Bridge Rd., Collegeville PA.

This event has been added to The Post calendar.

The sessions are open to the public at a cost of $25 per student. Class size is limited and advanced registration is required.

The course will cover responsibilities, child development, feeding, diapering, infant care, age-appropriate toys, and what to do in an emergency. It’s ideal for teens who want to work as baby-sitters, and for family members who watch a younger brother or sister after school.

Students must attend all sessions to receive a certificate.

Maybe there's a job waiting here ...

LIMERICK PA – Mary M. Tiernan, a program analyst in the Philadelphia District Office of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, will be the featured speaker Dec. 7 (2010; Thursday) during a Disability Awareness Job Fair that opens at 7:45 a.m. in the Limerick (PA) Township Municipal Building, 646 W. Ridge Pike, Limerick PA.

The event is open to the public, and is presented by Gateway Employment Resources, 342 W. Ridge Pike, Limerick, and Pennsylvania CareerLink. Registration for the session will be held from 7:45-8:15 a.m., followed by a talk and question-and-answer session led by Tiernan. The job fair itself, at which potential employment candidates with either special skills or needs can meet with would-be employers, will be held from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

The project is being made possible through a grant to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare.

For more information, call 610-495-6432.

Donor gifts save lives.

POTTSTOWN PA – Six separate blood drives conducted by the Miller-Keystone Blood Center have been scheduled in Pottstown, Royersford, Limerick, Lower Pottsgrove Township and Douglassville between next Monday (Dec. 6, 2010) and Dec. 19, the center announced this week. Donor collection dates are:

  • Monday (Dec. 6), from 2-7 p.m. in Cedarville United Methodist Church, 946 Keim Street, Pottstown PA;
  • Tuesday (Dec. 7), 1:45-6:30 p.m., Coventry Mall, 351 W. Schuylkill Rd., Pottstown;
  • Wednesday (Dec. 8), 2-7 p.m., Providence Church, 1202 S. Township Line Rd., Royersford;
  • Friday (Dec. 10), 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Western Montgomery Career and Technology Center, 77 Graterford Rd., Limerick;
  • Dec. 13 (Monday), 8 a.m. to noon, Dataceutics, 1610 Medical Dr., Lower Pottsgrove; and
  • Dec. 19 (Sunday), 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Hope Church, 117 N. Monocacy Creek Rd., Douglassville.

Appointments are required and can be made by calling Miller-Keystone at 610-926-6060.

by Dr. Allen Tyler
of Pottstown Memorial Medical Center

Dr. Allen Tyler.

A bad headache, difficulty focusing, confusion or fumbling to find words; it’s tempting to explain away troubling symptoms and chalk them up to fatigue, eye trouble, or one too many cups of coffee. These symptoms, however – particularly if they’re severe – may signal a stroke.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death, behind cancer and heart disease. A disease that limits the blood supply to the brain, stroke occurs when a blood vessel or artery is blocked by a blood clot or bursts. When that happens, the area of the brain supplied with oxygen and nutrients by the affected blood vessel is damaged, and the body part or function controlled by the damaged area doesn’t operate properly.

People who have a stroke are four times as likely to have another stroke during their lifetime, according to the National Stroke Association. Recurrent strokes carry an even higher risk of death and disability, because the brain was previously injured by the original stroke.

A stroke can change a person’s life forever. It can leave the victim with moderate to severe physical, mental or psychological disabilities. Depending on the area affected, a stroke victim may lose their memory, speech, balance, certain fine motor skills, control over certain muscles or movement of entire limbs – even paralysis of one side of the body. They may have difficulty reading, processing information or even eating.

About 87 percent of all strokes are ischemic strokes, where a blockage of a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain occurs. The clot can form in the brain area, or in a blood vessel elsewhere in the body – the heart, chest area or neck – where it can break loose and travel to the brain.

The remaining 13 percent are called hemorrhagic strokes – strokes caused by a weakened blood vessel that breaks and bleeds into the surrounding brain tissue. A brain aneurysm refers to the bulging of the weakened blood vessel, which continues to weaken and, if not treated, breaks and bleeds into the brain.

If you suspect that someone is having a stroke, act quickly.

A stroke is an emergency. Mere seconds can make an enormous difference in the outcome for a stroke survivor. Call 9-1-1 and try to recall the time that symptoms first appeared. If a stroke victim receives immediate medical assistance, a clot-busting drug can be administered by medical personnel within three hours of first symptoms which may reduce the likelihood of long-term disability resulting from a stroke.

The quicker that medical care is received, the greater a stroke victim’s chances increase for both surviving a stroke and minimizing its effects.

Learn to recognize these stroke signs:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in part of one’s visual field
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

and be prepared – to save a friend or loved one’s life, or your own.

Not all of these warning signs may be present, and one or more may go away. Don’t ignore these signs or dismiss them, even if they do not persist. Call 9-1-1 or seek medical assistance immediately.

Editor’s Note: Dr. Allen Tyler is a member of the medical staff at Pottstown Memorial Medical Center, Department of Internal Medicine – Neurology. He is Board Certified in Neurology, Clinical Neurophysiology, and Epilepsy and serves adult patients and pediatrics (18 years and above). His practice is located at Pottstown Memorial Medical Center, Neurophysiology Department, Suite 100, Pottstown 19464. His information is not intended to replace a doctor’s advice, but to increase awareness and equip patients to benefit their health.

Child safety is this month's topic.

KING OF PRUSSIA PA – The Valley Forge Mothers of Twins and Triplets Club will hold its monthly meeting next Wednesday (Nov. 10, 2010) beginning at 7 .m. in the downstairs social hall of the King of Prussia Volunteer Fire Company, 170 Allendale Road, King of Prussia PA. Sgt. Chuck Zadroga of the Upper Merion (PA) Township Police Department, its guest speaker, will discuss child safety.

The meeting is open to mothers of twins, multiples, and expectant mothers of multiples. Most of the 40-year-old club’s more than 160 members live in southern Montgomery County and northern Chester County.

For more information, call 610-792-1768 or send an e-mail.

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