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May 2013

The Master’s Hand Candle business thrives in Tekamah


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emember the feeling you had the first time you got into a hot tub? The warm water, the energizing bubbles and the gentle hydrotherapy of the jets left you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. Aches and pains seemed to fade away, and the bubbling sound of the water helped put you in a carefree and contented mood. The first time I ever got in a hot tub at a resort, I said to myself “One of these days I’m going to have one of these in my home– so I can experience this whenever I want.” Now that I’m older, I’d still like to have the pain relief and relaxation, but I have to be careful about slipping and falling in the bathroom. That’s why I was thrilled to find out that Jacuzzi, Inc. had combined the safety of a walk-in bath with the benefits of a hot tub. Now that I have one in my home I can have that luxurious resort experience… whenever I want.


Volume 67, Number 5, May 2013

“The Rural Voice of Nebraska”

Staff Editor Wayne Price Editorial Assistant Kathy Barkmeier

Contents Features

Powering Up

6

Published by the

Visit us at www.nrea.org General Manager Troy Bredenkamp President Gary Dill, Roosevelt Public Power District Vice President/Secretary Randy Papenhausen, Cedar-Knox Public Power District

Tornados, high winds, ice storms, blizzards—no matter the weather, the end result may be temporary power loss. Megan McKoyNoe provides a look into how utility staff begin assessing storm damage to get the lights back on.

Candle business shines brightly in Tekamah From selling candles as a school fundraiser, Susie Robison has grown her candle-making venture to a store-front business, pouring enough hot wax to produce tens of thousands of candles yearly. Freelance writer LaRayne Topp shares Robison’s story of determination and a dream.

Treasurer Ron Jensen, Loup Valleys Rural Public Power District Published monthly by the Nebraska Rural Electric Association, 1244 K Street, Box 82048, Lincoln, Nebraska 68501, (402) 475-4988.

Advertising in the Rural Electric Nebraskan does not imply endorsement for products by the Nebraska Rural Electric Association. Correspondence should be sent to Wayne Price, Editor, Rural Electric Nebraskan, Box 82048, Lincoln, NE 68501. The Rural Electric Nebraskan is printed by Jacob North Companies, Box 82046, Lincoln, NE 68501. Form 3579 should be sent to the Rural Electric Nebraskan, Box 82048, Lincoln, NE 68501. Periodicals postage paid at Lincoln, Neb. POSTMASTER: send address changes to the Rural Electric Nebraskan, 1244 K Street, Box 82048, Lincoln, NE 68501. Publication numbers are USPS 071-630 and ISSN 0193-4937. Rates: $10 for one year; $15 for two years; $20 for three years, plus local and state tax.

May 2013

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Departments EDITOR’S PAGE

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SAFETY BRIEFS — Murphy

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CUT YOUR UTILITY BILLS by James Dulley

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RECIPES

24

ADULT PEN PALS

25

MARKETPLACE/CLASSIFIEDS

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On the cover Susie Robison changes items for sale seasonally, filling The Master’s Hand in Tekamah with candy baskets and floral bouquets for Valentine’s Day, for example, and 11 beautifully decorated trees at Christmastime. See related article on page 12. Photograph by LaRayne Topp

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EDITOR’S PAGE

Be prepared for severe weather in Nebraska orothy made getting caught in a tornaing siren means in your community and to do look easy but I’m pretty sure we all take it seriously. realize the reality of that situation. “If the weather is threatening and you’re May is the beginning of severe weather season under a tornado watch, have a plan,” Dewey here in Nebraska and it’s a good time to put a said. “Are you in an area with a tornado siren? little thought into keeping your family safe Do you have an escape route? Don’t head into when the weather gets out of control. a congested area. Many deaths occur when Knowing the steps to take when severe people are backed up in traffic jams.” weather hits is the best way to protect yourself You should have a plan at your home, and family. I contacted Ken whether it is an apartDewey, a climatologist and ment or a mobile home. severe weather expert at Folks that live on the the University of Nebraskaupper floor of an apartLincoln’s School of Natural ment should make friends Resources to find out what with people on the first ways people could prepare floor. Mobile home resifor severe weather. dents should have someSoutheast Nebraska had place else that’s safe to go six tornadoes on April 14, when there is a tornado A tornado moves through Polk 2012 and there were 130warning in the area. County. Photograph by John plus tornadoes that day in Dewey encouraged Sundberg the area where they had people to be aware of what been forecast, mostly in Kansas. Dewey noted kind of building you might be in when there is that an afternoon downpour that caused flasha tornado watch. flooding in southeast Nebraska stabilized the “Big box stores with big roofs are at risk of atmosphere with cooler air and prevented collapse,” Dewey said. “Think about all that more tornadoes from forming. stuff piled up on shelves, flying through at Dewey urged people not to become complaspeeds in excess of 100 miles per hour. Some cent because it didn’t get as bad as it could grocery stores are okay because they put peohave, and to prepare for the rest of the storm ple in a reinforced room like a cooler.” season, which normally peaks in June. Another tip from Dewey: wear shoes, or He suggested that you pay attention to make sure there’s a pair where you’ll be taking weather forecasts and buy a weather radio shelter, so that you’re not climbing barefoot that receives broadcasts from the National out of rubble. Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Knowing what steps to take after a storm is National Weather Service. Pay attention when also important. If a storm or tornado wipes out someone tells you to take shelter. Check the utility poles and wires, local lineworkers weather more frequently when severe storms spring into action—and they have backup. The or tornadoes are forecast. Nebraska Rural Electric Association works “Own and use a weather radio,” Dewey said. with 34 public power districts and electric “Don’t depend on friends, TV or radio. You cooperatives across Nebraska to mount wideneed a NOAA weather radio.” spread restoration efforts for the electric conHaving a plan already in place for where sumers in our state. you and your family will take shelter is anothWe never know when the next storm will er good idea. Understanding the difference strike, or how widespread damage may be. between a tornado watch and a tornado warnOur purpose is simple: We exist to power coming is also important. munities and empower members to improve A tornado watch is issued when the weather their quality of life. If a storm destroys power conditions are such that the formation of a torlines, we restore electricity as quickly and safely as possible. The power and determinanado is possible. A tornado warning is issued tion of the nation’s rural electric network when a tornado has been sighted. Dewey speeds the process. noted that people need to know what a warn-

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by Wayne Price

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Rural Electric Nebraskan


GUEST EDITORIAL

A Politically Incorrect Guide to Public Power ublic power has always had its detractors, generally from those who wanted to benefit at the expense of others. Today is no exception. There are those who feel that the cost of their power is too high, or that alternative forms of power generation aren’t being adopted fast enough. As has happened in the past, and in keeping with todays prevalent attitude of “you must agree with me or you are the enemy and must be destroyed,” there are those who would call for the end of public power. In this “go along to get along” world we live in, it’s politically incorrect to openly disagree with anyone, yet we need to “collaborate for change” to make a better world. I disagree, I believe it’s time to make a stand and tell the world that public power is doing just fine, and that if you, the owners, want to change it you can, without selling your ability to control your own destiny for a few dollars to stockholders in other states.

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Local Control and Local Ownership In 1965, forty-eight years ago, at the tender age of ten, my father helped me buy two shares of stock in Westar Energy, an investor owned utility in Kansas. Every year since then, I have been asked to attend their annual stockholder meeting, or better yet, to assign my proxy to the majority stockholders so they can vote for me, in what they assure me, will be my best interest. What if I disagree and wanted a seat on their board of directors? Unlike public power, where each customer gets one vote, stockholders get one vote per share of stock. The majority of the stockholders of Westar Energy also are the owners of the majority of its stock. So, even if I could get all of the other stockholders, not on the Board of Directors to vote for me, I still wouldn’t win, since at best I could only get 49 percent of the votes.

May 2013

John Hoke General Manager Niobrara Valley Electric Membership Corporation Worse yet, if I was a customer, and the utility refused to provide us with good service, or put in place policies that were unfair to me and other customers, the Board would refuse to talk to me – they don’t have to. The only place we could turn to for justice would be the utility regulators, the Corporation Commission. Commissions exist mainly to be sure that the rates of an investor owned company are fair. Challenges to how a utility operates are handled similarly to the court system, which means that justice can be expensive and generally slow. Here in Nebraska, you are the owner, and you have a right to be heard by the board. In fact, if you feel strongly enough, and can get others to agree, you can be elected to the board of your utility. This unique concept of local control and local ownership is what keeps utilities in Nebraska doing what the majority of the people want, rather than be responsible to special interest groups with enough money to buy the public policy they want.

The Cost of Energy Some of public powers detractors have started making the case that since Nebraska electric prices have gone from 4th lowest in the nation to 9th lowest, public power has failed and should be scrapped and sold. While I would prefer that the citizens of Nebraska pay less for their electricity than 92 percent of the nation, paying less than 82 percent of the people is still a strong showing. Power cost is driven by many factors and is cyclical. Regulation, fuel source, the need to build or replace generation plant, transmission plant, and the ability to sell excess power outside the state are all factors that influence the cost of energy. This affects the price of energy that investor-owned utilities sell to their customers as well. One thing that never affects the price of public power is profit. We never seek a rate of return on our power sales to satisfy the stockholders; instead, we return any profits or margins we make in the form of lower energy prices. When the CEO of a public power utility retires, there are no stock options to sell, or stock dividends to collect; only passing on of the legacy of keeping the rates low. Convenience vs. Consolidation A common myth is that by merging businesses you can make things cheaper. It’s true, there are some monetary economies of scale, with bigger businesses, but you also get what you pay for when it comes to service. Utilities, especially rural utilities, serve hundreds of miles of low population areas. Over the past 20 years we have all seen the local offices for our gas and phone companies close, leaving us to deal with people who probably have never been to Nebraska, much less the United States. Not too long ago, I had a conPlease turn to page 23

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POWERING

UP by Megan McKoy-Noe, CCC

Don’t be left in the dark on how power is restored after a storm

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aves of thunder rumble, then roar toward your home as strong winds whip through the trees. Lights flicker and fade as errant tree limbs brush against power lines. Some storms are silent. In the dead of winter, layer upon layer of ice collects on trees and spreads slowly over power lines. One inch of ice on a single span of electric wire weighs as much as 1,250 lb.—a force capable of causing far more damage than wind as the weight drives branches and even whole trees and power lines to the ground. Tornados, high winds, ice storms, blizzards—no matter the weather, the end result may be temporary power loss. Public power districts and electric cooperatives routinely trim vegetation near their power lines and remove trees hovering dan-

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gerously close to them to prevent outages, a process called right-of-way maintenance. But when nature prevails, lineworkers, engineers, and other employees are standing by, ready to take action to get your lights back on. First things first: Report your outage by calling your electric service provider. Then it’s a matter of waiting until repairs can be made. Ever wonder how your rural electric utility decides where to start restoring power? When utility staff begin assessing storm damage, they focus on fixing the biggest problems first, prioritizing repairs according to how quickly and safely they can get the most homes back into service. Step One: Clearing the path Think of the flow of electricity as a river in reverse. It originates at a sin-

Rural Electric Nebraskan


gle ocean of power (a generation plant) and diverges from there into a series of transmission lines, substations, and smaller feeder lines until it reaches homes and businesses at a trickle of its original strength. Transmission lines, which carry power at high voltages from power plants, and local substations, where the voltage is lowered for safe travel to residential areas, must both be inspected for damage and repaired before any other efforts take place. After all, if the substation linked to your area’s power supply has been damaged, it doesn’t matter if lineworkers repair every problem near your home—the lights will stay off. Step Two: Bulk efforts After restoring the flow of power to local substations, rural electric utilities focus on getting power back to the greatest number of consumers. Distribution lines in highly populated cities and communities are checked for damage and generally repaired first, delivering electricity to most consumers. What does this mean? You might live on a farm with neighbors a mile or two away, or you could live in a neighborhood surrounded by 10 or 20 homes. Folks in neighborhoods or subdivisions will likely see power return before consumers in more remote areas. Line repairs are once again prioritized by the number of consumers who benefit.

erative before an emergency arises.

Step Three: One-on-One After fixing damage blocking power from large pockets of consumers, rural electric utilities focus on repairing tap lines (also called supply or service lines). These lines deliver power to transformers outside homes and businesses. This is the final stage of power restoration, requiring a bit more patience. Individual households may receive special attention if loss of electricity affects life-support systems or poses another immediate danger. If you or a family member depend on special medical equipment, call your local public power district or electric coop-

Still in the dark? If you notice your neighbors have power while you remain out of service, there might be damage between your home and the transformer on a nearby pole. If you didn’t report your outage earlier, be sure to call your rural electric utility so a line crew can make repairs. There are limits to what the utility can repair. You—not the utility—are responsible for damage to the service installation at your home or business [although most PPDs and electric cooperatives hold to this standard, some rural systems still take care of damage past the meter—check with

May 2013

Top left: North Central PPD crews work on a line in Knox County west of Verdigre, Neb. after a tornado. Photograph by Sherrie Zimmerer Top right: A winter storm had crews from Seward PPD repairing lines. Photograph by Tim Pozehl Above: High winds brought down several poles near Beemer, Neb. Photograph provided by Cuming County PPD Opposite: Crews at Twin Valleys PPD work on lines near Alma, Neb. during the 2006-2007 ice storm recovery. Photograph by Karen Wright your local distribution system. Call a licensed electrician to handle repairs if this is the case. Stay Safe! After a severe storm, broken power lines may land on the ground or in roadways. Stay away from all fallen power lines and report them to your PPD or electric cooperative. Electricity could still be flowing through the line, making them dangerous. While avoiding downed power lines may seem simple enough, there are other deadly safety concerns after a storm. If a power outage lasts longer Please turn to page 8

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Powering Up From page 7 than two hours, consider perishable food. Throw away any food that’s been exposed to temperatures above 40° Fahrenheit for two hours or more. An unopened refrigerator keeps food cold for about four hours, while food in a full freezer stays safe for about 48 hours. If using a portable generator, connect equipment you want to power directly into outlets on the generator with a properly rated extension cord. Never operate a generator inside your home—because of carbon monoxide poisoning—or connect a generator directly to your home’s wiring unless your home has been wired for generator use. Lineworkers’ lives could be put in danger from

power backfeeding onto electric lines. Connecting the generator to your home’s circuits or wiring must be done by a qualified, licensed electrician who will install a transfer switch to prevent backfeeding. Be Prepared While utilities work hard to reduce the impact strong winds and ice have on power lines, it’s good to be prepared for any disaster that might hit your community. Store a few basic items in your home. You should have at least a three-day supply of water on hand, one gallon per person per day. It’s also a good idea to have a three-day supply of non-perishable, high-energy food on hand—protein bars, breakfast bars, and canned food are winners. Remember to store handy tools like

a radio, can opener, flashlights, extra batteries, hand sanitizer, and first aid supplies. Include a seven-day supply of medications for you or other family members. Finally, retain copies of important documents— birth certificates, passports, and insurance policies. Those are the basics, but you can further customize your emergency kit. Think about including family photos, candy, nuts or other snack food, or a deck of cards to help pass the time. Rechargeable flashlights in key areas of the home provide instant light if the power goes out. To learn more about how to prepare for storms and other emergencies, visit www.ready.gov. Sources: American Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association

Above: An ice storm brought Twin Valleys PPD crews out for repairs. Photograph by Karen Wright. Top left: An example of “Hoarfrost” collected on a line. Photograph by Joe Janosek Middle: The Cuming County PPD crew worked long hours to restore power after an ice storm in 2009. Mutual Aid was used and crews from Schmader Electric, Loup Valleys RPPD, Twin Valleys PPD, Perennial PPD, and David City Electric Department came to help restore power to over 1400 people. Photograph provided by Cuming County PPD Bottom: Niobrara Electric EMC crews work to repair a transmission line destroyed by a tornado in 2010 in Holt County. Photograph by Joe Janosek

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Rural Electric Nebraskan


Save money on your home’s hot water ou may not realize it, but the water heater is the second largest user of energy in most homes in Nebraska. Only space heating and cooling systems use more. However, unlike heating and cooling equipment which are seasonal, your water heater works year round. The average home uses 65 gallons of hot water per day. If you pay an average of 12¢ per kilowatt-hour for electricity, you may be spending over $800 per year for hot water! If you are shopping for a new or replacement unit, there is a lot to consider. With today’s technologies, there are several different types of water heaters available: • Conventional storage water heaters offer a ready reservoir (storage tank) of hot water. • Tankless or demand-type water heaters heat water directly without a storage tank. • Heat pump water heaters move heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly for providing hot water. • Solar water heaters use the sun's heat to provide hot water. • Tankless coil and indirect water heaters use a home’s space heating system to heat water. Cost varies from technology-totechnology. In general, more-efficient technologies cost more up front but provide significant savings over time, which reduces the total amount you have to pay to have hot water. You can save money by keeping your water heater thermostat set to the lowest temperature that provides you with sufficient hot water. For most households, 120°F water is fine. Each 10°F reduction in water temperature will generally save 3-5 percent on your water heating costs. When you are going away on vacation, you can turn the thermostat down to the lowest possible setting, or turn the water heater off altogether for additional savings. Source: Nebraska Public Power District

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Look for Energy Star labels on room air conditioners such as this Kenmore A/C unit, mounted in a window. Photograph provided by Kenmore

Stop the energy drains at home ummer vacation can be a recipe for high electric bills if kids are home all day and a swimming pool is in use. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that 9 percent of Americans’ household energy costs are dedicated to air conditioning alone, so try these tips to keep costs down when the temperature rises.

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Avoid ‘phantom’ load Get your family in the habit of turning electronics on and off via power strips as they move from one activity to the next. As electronics and appliances become more technologically savvy, they often draw power even while turned off. A good indicator of this—called “phantom load”—is to check the device for a light that stays on all the time. Phantom load will add a few watthours to energy consumption, but a few watt-hours on each of your many electronic devices adds up. To avoid this silent power draw, unplug the device or invest in a “smart” power strip, which allows certain electronics—like a cable box, which takes time to reboot after it’s been

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unplugged—to continue using electricity while others can be completely shut down. Air-conditioning units More people in the house plus doors hanging open from the last trip to play outside plus high temperatures equals an air-conditioning unit that has to work harder to keep the house cool. Be sure to adjust settings to maximize efficiency, such as using the “auto” function instead of keeping the fan running all the time. Regular maintenance to keep your air conditioner or heat pump in good working order is a good idea, as is checking and changing the air filter every few months or if it’s dirty. Also, set your thermostat as high as you can while maintaining your comfort level—the smaller the difference between indoor air and the great outdoors, the lower your cooling costs will be. And make sure to rearrange your furniture so that appliances that put out a lot of heat aren’t near the thermostat. Keep the pool covered About 70 percent of the heat lost from

swimming pools results from evaporation, caused by both wind and water. That means tap water goes to refilling the pool, which means higher electric bills to reheat the water. To save energy, cover a pool when it’s not in use. Pool size and shape factor into choosing the right cover. The most expensive pool covers are incorporated into the pool structure and can come with an automatic retraction and storage system. Manual covers may be cheaper, but removing them can be a dirty job. You can also choose solar covers resembling bubble wrap. Your electric utility is a resource As you work this summer to stop energy drains, don’t forget about your local rural electric utility. An energy efficiency expert can help you determine the right steps for your home, including whether an energy audit will help find more savings. You can also visit your utility’s website or TogetherWeSave.com to find out how little measures around the house add up to big energy savings. Sources: U.S. Department of Energy, Cooperative Research Network

Rural Electric Nebraskan


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Susie sells a large variety of candies, especially milk and dark chocolates, at the Serendipity Chocolate Factory.

Candle business shines brightly in Tekamah by LaRayne Topp

n 2003, Susie Wissmann found herself one day to be a single mom with kids to raise. She had no job and no savings in the bank. What she did have was 55 pounds of candle wax left over from a science experiment, four dozen glass jars and some wicks. She also

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had a heartfelt desire to continue home-schooling her children while developing a business that would allow her to do so. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. The country was struggling to recover from a worldwide recession, with economic growth slowing to a crawl nationally. But Susie had a vision. Every evening, after her kids were in bed, she stayed up until 2 a.m., sending

thousands of letters and emails to schools, asking if they were interested in taking part in a fundraiser, selling candles. A fraction responded, but when they did 50 percent placed an order. In the first week of December in 2003, Susie loaded her pickup with thousands of candles, making deliveries to schools in Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Please turn to page 14

Rural Electric Nebraskan


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Candle business shines From page 12 Minnesota, South Dakota and Missouri. From that humble beginning, Susie has grown her candle-making venture to a store-front business, pouring enough hot wax to produce tens of thousands of candles yearly. “It’s a God story,” she said. Since those days, a new story has been written, one that includes a recent marriage to husband Scott Robison. He’s joined in her in turning The Master’s Hand into every woman’s dream shop, carrying items women love to see, eat and smell – flowers, chocolates, and lotions, plus so much more: clothing, jewelry, purses, antiques and holiday items. They also operate a tea room at the location. Even so men stop by – men such as Lewis Miller of Beemer, who says he’s been a fan for a long time. “When I get this way,” he said, “I

14

always find an excuse to stop in.” Often that excuse is a bag of chocolates. When Susie outgrew her home location four years ago, she purchased a former appliance store on the outskirts of Tekamah, Nebraska, a river town along the Missouri. With Pelican Point State Recreation area to the east and Summit Lake State Recreation area to the west, plus two wineries and the impressive Burt County Museum, there’s plenty in the area to see and do. “People come from Lincoln, Omaha, Sioux City; they come from all over,” Susie said. “Tekamah is a little hot spot for day trips.” For example, a stretch-limo pulled up one day and women from Vermillion, South Dakota, toppled out; they were enjoying a girls’ day out. “It’s not so much a candle shop and gift shop anymore, but a tourist destination,” Scott explained. To keep that destination spot running smoothly, Master’s Hand regu-

larly employs as many as 40 people on a part-time basis. They pour candles and assist with the gift shop. They arrange flowers for Tekamah Floral. They concoct chocolate morsels for Serendipity Chocolate Factory. And they set up bouncy houses, shaved ice machines, and kiddie trains at county fairs, community celebrations and the like. “I come up with ideas, but I can’t do everything and be good at everything,” Susie explained. When she finds someone who’s efficient at one skill or another the store needs, flower arranging, for example, or setting up eye-catching displays or creating delicious lunches, Susie steps back. “I get out of their way and they do what they do well. The Lord puts key people in our lives and that makes the business successful.” The Robisons have been so successful, in fact, that in 2012 The Master’s Hand was invited to take part in Gallup University’s Great Manager Program. Utilizing Gallup’s extensive

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and ongoing research, the course helped the Robisons analyze their strengths in the way of human resources, learning to build on those strengths to make them great. The program taught them how to increase productivity by surrounding themselves with engaged employees. An actively disengaged employee comes to work only for the paycheck, Scott said, but an employee who loves what he or she does will be an engaged employee. “It’s a good philosophy.” The Master’s Hand is one of 4,019 customers served by the Burt County Public Power District. The rural electric utility provides electrical power to Burt, Thurston, Dodge and Washington counties, with Dick Ray as its General Manager. The Master’s Hand is also a member of GROW Nebraska, a non-profit organization focused on supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses through promotion, access to markets and education. It is also part of the Nebraska Passport program, designed by the state’s Department of Economic Development’s Travel and Tourism Division to line up themed adventures for travelers. Susie also promotes her businesses heavily through Facebook postings, offering product coupons and advertising special events. With candle-making as the backbone of the business, Susie continually adds new fragrances to her line of candle scents, while dropping those less popular. She typically offers 70 fragrances of soy and paraffin wax blend candles in the shop, while selling 20 favorites through her fund raising program. She thinks of herself as a dreamer, a high-flying kite of ideas while her daughter and the Robisons’ business partner, Nicole Lyon of Omaha, is on the ground below, holding on to the string. “I believe in the idea that you can jump off a cliff and build your wings before you hit the ground,” Susie Robison said. “If you have enough faith, you don’t need to see how far that is.”

May 2013

Above: Susie Robison waits on customers Joann Snow, left, and Pat Shamburg, two women from Tekamah who enjoy visiting the tea room. Opposite: Women’s sweaters, scarves and jewelry are just a few of the wearables available at The Master’s Hand. Photographs by LaRayne Topp

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Getting comfortable with

Home Energy Efficiency is a priority,” says Brian Sloboda, senior proelanie wants her home to g r a m be comfortable, cheerful, managand bright. Winter gusts er with blowing across the Nebraska prairie the National send her to the thermostat to fight Rural Electric Cooperative the chill. In the summer, she nudges Association (NRECA). “But efficient the temperature down to keep cool, energy use is important for other all while avoiding her husband’s reasons. First, you save money. detection. Second, you save energy, which Melanie’s husband, Scott, frowns on leads back to saving money.” tweaking the thermostat. He canvasIt’s easy for us to ignore being es the home, turning off lights. While wise with our energy consumption. his wife finds comfort leaving lights After all, electricity is a good value, on and turning up (or down) heat, he especially when compared to other finds comfort in lower utility bills. forms of energy. Unlike other Fortunately, a comfortable middle sources of energy, however, electriciground is both ty is very flexiaffordable and ble—we can available to use electricity homeowners for everything across the from helping nation. Energywith cooking saving products and cleaning combined with to powering efficient home entertainment design trends devices and and building The 18 foot-long energy wall uses comeven our autotechniques are pressed air flowing through the display m o b i l e s . revolutionizing to demonstrate potential energy losses Regardless, it home energy that could easily be plugged with propmakes sense use. (and cents) to er caulking, insulation and various Regardless of sealants. Source: Illinois Country Living be more enerlocation or type gy efficient in of residence, people like Scott and all areas, especially at home. Melanie are finding that being ener“Energy efficiency is a pocketbook gy efficient at home not only brings issue,” explains Alan Shedd, director comfort, but also positively impacts of residential and commercial enerboth wallets and the world. gy programs for the NRECA’s “If you’re concerned about the Touchstone Energy Home program. environment, being energy efficient “If you can do things to reduce the by Les O’Dell

M

16

cost of energy, you will have more money to spend on other things. Sure, we can’t control all energy costs—gasoline, for example—but we can make a difference in our own home.” But how do we make that difference? How can Melanie still be comfortable and avoid sending Scott into a frenzy when he opens the monthly power bill? Experts say future home construction and remodeling will focus on energy efficiency. One of the key things to focus on in new construction or remodeling is properly sealing a home. “The best time to focus on energy savings is at construction,” says Bob Dickey, manager of marketing and economic development for Eastern Illini Electric Cooperative in Paxton, Ill. “We’ve got to do a better job of sealing penetrations and gaps between the conditioned space—areas of the home that we heat and cool—and unconditioned spaces. Find and seal gaps, cracks, and penetrations near plumbing, cables, utilities, furnace runs, fireplace installations, and electrical wiring—anything that may let air move from one space to another. When you seal these gaps in a typical home, energy costs can drop between 20 and 40 percent.” Doing Detective Work Home energy audits help consumers identify points of energy loss that can eventually lead to savings on their monthly electric bill. Often performed by electric utility employees or other trained professionals, an energy audit uses special tools to pinpoint potential improvements. Roger Hunt, a member of Nebraska Public Power District’s Energy Efficiency Team, conducts thorough energy audits through the utilities Home Energy Evaluation. After a quick safety check on a home’s gas appliances and furnaces, experts such as Hunt place a blower Please turn to page 18

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Home Energy Efficiency From page 16 door on an exterior door. The device pressurizes the home, making air leaks easier to locate. “The door simulates a 20 mile per hour wind coming at the house from all sides,” he explains. “It creates a negative pressure so we can find out what the biggest problems are when it comes to comfort and energy. When we fix the comfort problem, we save energy, too.” “With the assistance of an infrared camera,” Hunt explains, “we can find out what the biggest problems are when it comes to comfort and energy. Trouble spots cannot be fixed by rolling out more insulation, since it is not air sealing. The space needs to be specifically sealed.” Hunt acknowledged that most leaks are in attics, but also noted that like the flue chase, the chimney chase, plumbing stacks, electrical penetrations, and around kitchen and bathroom soffits can be potential locations for leaks. Hunt explained that before an actual visit to a residence is performed, NPPD’s first line for information is through its customer care center colleagues (1-877-ASKNPPD) who can direct customers to online self-energy evaluation tools that will assist customers to better understand their energy usage. The energy efficiency consultant would be the next step where an evaluation of historical use would be prepared to determine further questions to be asked of the residence concerning energy usage. “Sometimes the initial phone conversation offers a great opportunity to listen to the customer and to get to the root cause of the request, and at the same time, allows NPPD to explain certain issues that a customer may not consider,” Hunt explained. “After that, an actual visit could be made where an indepth inspection would take place, including the use of the infrared camera and door blower, to deter-

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Roger Hunt, a member of Nebraska Public Power District’s Energy Efficiency Team, performs a blower door test for a customer. He uses smoke to check for air leaks around a light fixture. Photograph by Steve Walker mine what the key energy loss issues are for the residence.” Hunt added that NPPD has completed energy audits on houses ranging from new construction to century-old homes, and says many states now require the test on all new construction. States, such as Nebraska, don’t require an energy audit but may in the future. Wade Rahn, Customer Service Coordinator at Butler Public Power District of David City, Neb. says public power districts and electric cooperatives are always willing to help members find ways to make their homes more energy efficient. “We will gladly sell our customers all of the electricity that they want to use, but we encourage them to not waste it either,” he says. “Each home and how the individual customers use energy varies drastically, so a one size fits all approach is not practical. By tailoring the improvement suggestions to each customer it allows them to maximize the balance between their monthly energy costs and the funds available to make these improvements.” Designed to Save Rahn says older homes were built to a different standard, when energy

was less expensive and efficiency was less important. Energy efficiency is a key concern for new home construction, he adds. “Electrical rates will continue to rise, so there has never been a better time to build an energy efficient house. Many options are available to consumers building a new home. Calculators are available to us to help estimate energy savings based on efficiency upgrades to tools that verify the upgrades are performing properly after installation,” Rahn explains. “After a home is completed, customers are not likely to make energy efficiency upgrades. There is significant importance to make the best decisions from the start to capitalize on their investment.” Dickey’s electric cooperative designed a demonstration tool for consumer energy efficiency education. The 17-foot Energy Efficiency Wall is a popular exhibit at home shows, fairs, and special events, showcasing more than a dozen ways energy can leak through a home’s walls. “People see everything we’ve been saying and it makes sense. Showing people what to do is different than telling them. This has been a very valuable tool for us,” he explains.

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SAFETY BRIEFS

Protect your home from electrical hazards pring is traditionally the time of year we turn our attention to sprucing up things both inside and outside our homes. And with May being National Electrical Safety Month, it’s also a good time to make sure your home not only looks nice, but is safe from dangerous electrical hazards. To keep yourself and your family safe from these dangers, the Leviton Institute recommends a professional electrical safety inspection of your home and grounds every ten years. The Institute also encourages you to undertake an annual electrical safety inspection yourself. Here are some things to keep in mind: 1. Water and electricity are a potentially deadly combination. Avoid using power tools outdoors in wet grass or other wet or damp areas. 2. Keep appliances like hair dryers and radios away from the sink, tub, or pool, and make sure all outlets near a water source are equipped with a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI). That includes outlets in bathrooms, kitchens, unfinished basements, and

S

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garages, and near swimming pools and hot tubs. Make sure your outdoor receptacles are GFCI protected and that they are housed in weatherproof covers.

3. Testing your GFCIs doesn't take long. If your GFCI is a standard GFCI, plug a lamp or radio into the GFCI and turn the lamp or radio On. Next press the TEST button and see if the lamp or radio goes Off. Press the RESET button and the lamp or radio should go back On. If the lamp or radio doesn't go Off when you push the TEST button, the GFCI isn't working properly and should be replaced. 4. Don’t overload an outlet. Simply put, each household outlet is rated for a safe amount of current,

typically 15-20 amps. Plugging too many household appliances into the same outlet can start a fire or create a shock hazard. 5. Check all power and extension cords for cracks or fraying. Those that are showing wear, and those that have been taped over in the past, should be replaced immediately. Never, under any circumstance, run extensions under carpets, rugs, or furniture, where you are unable to see their condition. When using an extension cord outdoors, be sure it is rated for outdoor use. 6. Make sure all outdoor tools and appliances are unplugged when they’re not in use. 7. All outlets that have loosefitting plugs or are cracked or have broken parts, and those that are hot to the touch, are potential fire hazards and should be immediately replaced. Switches that are cracked or are hot to the touch should similarly be replaced. 8. Be extremely careful when using a ladder near overhead power lines; even a wooden ladder contacting a power line can have potentially deadly results. Source: Leviton Institute

Rural Electric Nebraskan


CUT YOUR UTILITY BILLS

Cut through sales hype before replacing windows by James Dulley

need replacement windows Q :forWeour home. Every window salesman makes his windows sound like the best and most efficient. How do I choose among the various frame materials, styles, and glass types? : It can be extremely difficult to

A sort through all the marketing hype from salespeople to make the proper replacement window decision. Without telling salespeople who I was, I sat through many sales presentations at my mother’s house. I was appalled at some of the absurd claims I heard. It’s important to note that because windows are an expensive project, energy efficiency should not be your only reason to purchase new ones. Other efforts will save more money, and you can find ways to make your existing windows more energy efficient—try EnergySavers.gov. But if you truly need new windows, there are some considerations. The proper selection not only depends on the characteristic of the window, but also on your specific house and family lifestyle. What is best for your next-door neighbor’s house may not necessarily be best for yours. For example, you may want a view of a particular area outdoors or want springtime ventilation whereas your neighbor may keep their blinds closed and air-condition continuously. You have mentioned the three main decision criteria for selecting replacement windows: frame material, style of window, and glass type. From the standpoint of energy efficiency, the glass type and style of window are more important than the frame material, which has a greater affect on the functionality, durability, maintenance, and appearance. The four most common frame mate-

22

rials for residential windows are vinyl, fiberglass, wood, and clad wood, and each has its own advantages. Vinyl is energy efficient and virtually maintenance free. They also are made to the precise dimensions of the window opening instead of having to shim out standard sizes.

The cavities and webs inside a vinyl window frame improve insulation and strength. Photograph provided by Weathershield In order to attain adequate rigidity, the vinyl frame extrusions have many webs and chambers inside. These chambers create natural insulation, plus the vinyl material itself is a poor conductor of heat. For greater R-value, several vinyl window manufacturers inject expanding foam insulation inside the chambers as the frame is assembled. Always look for sash frames that have welded corners for strength. Because the outer window frame is screwed rigidly into the window opening framing, welded corners in it are not as important as with the sash frames. If you select vinyl frames for large windows, especially in hot climates, they should have steel reinforcement internally. When vinyl gets hot in the sun, it loses strength and rigidity.

Fiberglass frames are extremely strong and can be painted any color to match interior or exterior house colors. Because its primary component is glass, fiberglass frames expand and contract with temperature changes about the same rate as the glass panes to minimize stress. This characteristic is an advantage for dark frame colors exposed to the sun, which can create a substantial temperature range throughout the day and night. The strength of fiberglass frames is also an advantage for smaller windows because narrower frame cross-sections are acceptable. With other frame materials, a thicker frame can reduce the glass area too much. Wood window frames have been around forever, and when properly maintained, have a very long life. Wood frames are also the most attractive. This is true even if you choose to paint the frames. It’s easier to cut more complex and sharp detail into wood frame surfaces. The drawback of wood is some regular maintenance is required for appearance and energy efficiency. Exterior vinyl- or aluminum-clad wood frames greatly reduce the maintenance requirements. The natural wood can still be exposed on the indoor surface so they look like wood windows from indoors. Some vinyl and fiberglass frames are available with natural wood indoor cladding to provide the appearance of real wood frames. Because glass is most of the window, the type you choose is is the key to its energy efficiency. Double paneglass with low-E (low-emissivity) coatings and inert gas in the gap between the panes is adequate for most climates. Triple-pane glass may make sense for severely cold climates.

Send inquiries to James Dulley, Rural Electric Nebraskan, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com.

Rural Electric Nebraskan


John Hoke Guest Editorial From page 5 versation with a service representative who just couldn’t believe that the nearest Wal-Mart was over two hours away and finally just hung up on me when I wanted to exchange the product by mail. Because public power is local, you can talk to people who understand you, that realize that a trip to town is a thirty mile round trip, and if they hang up on you can expect you to be there in about fifteen minutes or less - unless you call your local director first… Public power is yours to keep, or yours to sell. Someday you may be asked to consider if a fist full of dollars is worth local service, control, and ownership at a price you can afford, so special interest groups can dictate to you what you need and should want. It’s okay with me if you give them a politically incorrect answer – I would.

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DOWN HOME

RECIPES

Sloppy Joes 2 lbs. hamburger 3/4 cup finely cut onions 1 1/2 cup catsup 1 tablespoon mustard 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 1 Tablespoon vinegar 1/2 cup brown sugar 1 teaspoon garlic powder Salt & pepper to taste Brown hamburger and onion. Add rest of ingredients and heat well. Serve on buns.

Doris J. Rempe, Lawrence, Nebraska

Moist Coffee Cake

Cheesy Sausage and Mushroom Pizza 1 10-ounce prepared thin pizza crust (about 12 inches) 1/2 cup pizza sauce 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded provolone cheese 8 ounces bulk Italian sausage, cooked, crumbled and drained 1 4-ounce can mushroom pieces, drained Heat oven to 450Âş F. Spread pizza crust evenly with sauce, one cup cheese, sausage, mushroom, and remaining cup of cheese. Bake directly on oven rack for 10 minutes, or until crust is crisp and cheese is melted.

Recipe provided by the National Pork Board

Mix: 1 box yellow cake mix 3 eggs 1 can apple pie filling (or 6 cooked and peeled apples)

Topping: 1/2 cup brown sugar 2 tablespoons flour 2 tablespoons cinnamon 2 tablespoons butter 1 cup chopped nuts

Combine cake mix and eggs to make a very stiff batter. Stir in apple pie mix and spread in a greased and floured 9 x 13 inch pan. Top with topping and bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

Annie Mollring, McCook, Nebraska

Creamy Grape Salad 1 (8 oz.) pkg cream cheese, softened 1 cup sour cream 1/3 cup sugar 2 teaspoon vanilla 2 lbs. seedless green grapes 2 lbs. seedless red grapes 3 tablespoons brown sugar 2 tablespoons chopped pecans In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sour cream, sugar and vanilla until blended. Add grapes (I have cut the grapes in halves, your own preference). Sprinkle with brown sugar and pecans just before serving. Serves 20-24.

Kelly Schramm, Madison, Nebraska

24

Rural Electric Nebraskan


Look for Adult Pen Pals next month ue to a low number of submissions sent in by readers for use in the May issue of the Rural Electric Nebraskan, no Adult Pen Pals submissions will be printed this month. Submissions sent for use in the May issue will appear in the June 2013 issue of the magazine instead. It is the policy of the Rural Electric Nebraskan to run Adult Pen Pal submissions only when at least six letters have been received by the Nebraska Rural Electric Association office in a given month. The Rural Electric Nebraskan Adult Pen Pal Service is exclusively for member-readers ages 18 and over. Adult Pen Pal submissions can be sent to Rural Electric Nebraskan Adult Pen Pal Service, P.O. Box 82048, Lincoln, NE 68501.

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To appear in print The Rural Electric Nebraskan Adult Pen Pal Service is exclusively for member-readers ages 18 and over. To be considered for use, submissions must: (1) Identify rural electric system providing magazine; (2) Include $6 to cover mail forwarding costs; (3) Be 25 words or fewer; (4) Include full name and mailing address (will not be used in magazine); and (5) Be first person, submitted directly by person to receive responses. Acceptance, editing and issue scheduling is at editor’s discretion. Address all submissions to Rural Electric Nebraskan Adult Pen Pal Service, P.O. Box 82048, Lincoln, NE 68501. All responses received by the Adult Pen Pal Service are routed directly, postage paid, to the response number assigned to each submission. To write To respond to one of the adult pen pal requests, write letter, place in envelope, seal and affix first class postage. Address to full, correct response #, c/o Rural Electric Nebraskan Adult Pen Pal Service, P.O. Box 82048, Lincoln, NE 68501. Your letter will be forwarded unopened. Do not send money or additional postage; forwarding is prepaid. Enclose your full mailing address for return correspondence. Once again . . . it is very important that all responses carry the full response number—both month and number—to be properly forwarded.

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Abbreviation Code C — Christian; C/W — Country-western; D — Divorced; F — Female; M — Male; NS — Non-Smoker; ND — Non-Drinker; R&R — Rock and roll; S — Single; W — White; Wid — Widowed

May 2013

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Rural Electric Nebraskan


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Rural Electric Nebraskan  

The Rural Electric Nebraskan (REN) has been published since January 1947. The role of the REN is to chronicle the benefits and challenges of...