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Summer Reading, Women’s Health, Switchgrass & More

Mom’s business

Time capsule: 50 years ago

Energy tip

Bourbon fest brings visitors

Quote: National Conference of State Legislatures

Conference addresses stroke in women

The promise and problems of growing switchgrass for biofuels

Shaky ground

Mom’s business

Virginia Smith often puts a little bit of herself in her novels, letting her characters address issues she has dealt with in her own life. Age before Beauty (Revell, $13.99) is no exception.

In this book, Allie Harrod determines her career path after becoming a new mom. With her long-resolved plan to return to her state job crumbling, Allie enters the world of home-based cosmetic sales for the best of both worlds. Making a go of it is tough on her self-esteem and her entire family, forcing her to examine her motivations.

Smith faced the same decision when her daughter was born, but says she couldn’t find a financially stable alternative at the time. Eventually, she successfully launched a home-based computer consulting business.

“It paid my bills and allowed me to stay home with my kids for many years,” Smith says.

She left the corporate world in 2006 to become a writer and has cranked out 11 novels since. Her productivity is fueled by reading constantly and connecting with her fans.

She says, “The only way to do that is to pour pieces of yourself into your books. So with every heroine I write, I look for something we have in common. In other words, I write real life as I see it. If you do that, you never run out of creative ideas. Age before Beauty is the one that stirred up the most memories from my past. It’s been a long time since the birth of my first child, so I had to dip pretty deeply into the well of experience to remember my feelings as a new mom. But once I did, they came back to me as if they happened yesterday.”

Smith and her husband enjoy many hobbies while splitting their time between homes in Kentucky and Utah, including skiing and motorcycle riding. To connect with Smith, visit or find her Facebook page at

Penny Woods for Joseph-Beth booksellers,,(800) 248-6849 ,

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Time capsule: 50 years ago in Kentucky Living

New plugs are used in major wiring job

It has only been a few years back that we referred to our electric service as the light bill. The increased usage of electricity in the home and around the farm has rapidly changed our thinking from light bills to power bills. Inasmuch as we have many more appliances and tools around the farmstead, we have rapidly loaded and even exceeded the capacity of our wiring systems and have developed some hazards that would not have occurred with the old limited use of electricity for lighting.

There are safety rules that we must abide by in handling electricity around the home and on the farm. One of the major problems that has faced the user, the electric power supplier, and the manufacturer of appliances and tools, is that of proper grounding of these appliances.

In the immediate future, all the electric appliances used in the home and around the farm will be equipped with a three-prong grounding plug. Many of these appliances are already on the market.

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Energy tip

Use the moisture sensor feature on your clothes dryer if it has one. This option shuts down the dryer when clothes are dry. In addition, clean the lint filter after each load. This improves air circulation and increases the dryer’s efficiency.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy

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Bourbon fest brings visitors

The Kentucky Bourbon Festival, September 14-19, offers more than 35 free and ticketed events, including a golf tournament, car show, arts and crafts fair, balloon glow, and a black-tie bourbon-tasting gala. Most events are in Bardstown. A full schedule is available at Tickets for the 12 paid events are available at the Web site or by calling (800) 638-4877 ext. 4.

Last year’s festival drew 43,000 visitors from 43 states and 13 countries.

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Quote: National Conference of State Legislatures

Without energy efficiency, the United States would have needed to build twice the number of power plants that were constructed since 1970.

Meeting the Energy Challenges of the Future, by the National Conference of State Legislatures

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Conference addresses stroke in women

The fact that stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer is among the reasons an annual women’s health conference in Bowling Green will focus this year on warning signs and treatment for strokes.

A Day Just for Women will be presented by The Medical Center at Bowling Green on September 30 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Sloan Convention Center. Now in its 13th year, the women’s conference draws around 500 women.

A Day Just for Women will include presentations, health screenings, exhibit booths, and conference materials. It will include an “ask the physician” question-and-answer session and a presentation on Dealing with Change by author and former talk show host Donna Tyson.

Kerri Remmel, M.D., Ph.D., neurologist and Stroke Center director for the University of Louisville Hospital, will also be a featured speaker.

In July last year, The Medical Center was designated a Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission, as a hospital that follows national standards that can significantly improve outcomes for stroke patients.

“This is the first time in history that women have more strokes than men,” says Dr. Remmel. “Women have different warning signs for stroke than men.”

Among the stroke symptoms unique to women are sudden face and limb pain, sudden nausea, sudden chest pain, and sudden shortness of breath. Specialists say fast action is crucial for stroke treatment, and they recommend calling 911 immediately in case of stroke symptoms.

The cost of the conference is $50 per person and includes continental breakfast and lunch. For more information, call (800) 624-2318 or visit

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The promise and problems of growing switchgrass for biofuels

There has been talk in the last few years about the potential of switchgrass to be grown for biofuel production. Switchgrass and other energy crops can be used for either cellulosic ethanol production or co-firing for power generation.

Cellulosic ethanol is a liquid fuel that is used as a substitute for, or blended with, gasoline.

Co-firing mixes biofuels with coal and/or other energy sources to generate electricity.

Kentucky is said to be uniquely suited for growing biofuels and that this could be an opportunity for Kentucky farmers. So in May I went to see firsthand, along with other Extension specialists, how this market is emerging in Kentucky.

Our first stop was at a 5-acre field of switchgrass in Bracken County being grown as part of a program with the University of Kentucky. This program is designed to give UK specialists and producers experience in growing this forage.

Next, we toured the East Kentucky Power Cooperative plant in Maysville that has used switchgrass for co-firing electricity generation. This plant is burning the switchgrass for experimental purposes to gain experience with biofuel co-firing.

Finally, we visited a pelleting plant in Greenup County that converts the bulky switchgrass round bales into a dense pellet the size of a car piston. Pelletizing allows the product to be transported more efficiently, although at the current time the pelleting cost is quite high.

Although we were amazed by the possibilities biofuels presented, the main problem is that there is just not much market for cellulosic biofuels at the current time. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency dropped the 2010 Renewable Fuels Standard blending mandate for cellulosic ethanol from 100 million gallons to 6.5 million gallons.

The cellulosic ethanol mandate for 2012 is around 200 million gallons, plus an additional 300 million gallons of other cellulosic biofuels. Given that none of the mandates have been binding so far, the likelihood that we will reach the 2012 targets is questionable at best.

To put these numbers into context, we are producing roughly 10.6 billion gallons of ethanol through corn-based production. Thus, the current cellulosic ethanol production is about 1/10 of 1 percent of corn-based production. Even 100 million gallons (the original 2010 mandate) would still not represent 1 percent of total ethanol production. If we combined the 2012 mandates for all biofuel-based production (ethanol and electricity generation), this would still be under 5 percent of current corn-based ethanol production.

In other words, there is not yet a widespread market for cellulosic-based biofuels, and it is unlikely that one will materialize for several years. Farmers need to keep this in mind when considering long-term investments in energy crops.

Switchgrass does have the advantage of being able to be used as a livestock forage, especially hay. So limited plantings of this grass can give farmers experience in establishing and growing stands and still being able to utilize their product even if the biofuel market does not emerge. Ultimately, the development of a legitimate cellulosic-based biofuel market will hinge on whether the cellulosic mandates become mandatory. With the current cost structure, cellulosic-based biofuels cannot compete against corn-based ethanol production or fossil fuel electricity generation.

Greg Halich, assistant Extension professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Kentucky, adapted from the June 18 University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service Economic Policy Update

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Shaky ground

Living in Kentucky’s New Madrid Seismic Zone
by Karen M. Leet

Thomas Franklin, retired school principal and West Kentucky RECC member, talks about earthquakes “every time I can find an ear to listen.” He knows something many of us don’t. “Some of the greatest quakes in the United States were right here within 50 miles of where I live in Calloway County.”

What happened in 1811
At 2 a.m. December 16, 1811, the central U.S.—sparsely populated frontier territory and the busy Mississippi River trade—experienced the first shock in an incredible series of devastating earthquakes. Through January and February of 1812, major jolts and frequent aftershocks reshaped the land. The historical accounts show: Sand blows, like geysers, erupted. Forests fell. Chasms yawned wide and clapped shut. Sulfur stink and smoky vapors fouled the air.

Residents near the Mississippi fled for their lives as banks crumbled, islands vanished, and the river changed course—some even claimed the river ran backward briefly. Land rose or fell—Reelfoot Lake formed.

With three of this nation’s most powerful quakes (currently estimated between 7.5 and 8.0) and an unprecedented series of tremors in between, the New Madrid Seismic Zone’s 1811-12 events, felt 1,000 miles away, strongly impacted Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, and more. Cities on the East Coast felt the jolts with cracked sidewalks, rattled dishes, and clanging church bells.

Nearly 200 years later
According to Kentucky’s Earthquake Program Manager Steve Oglesby, this area continues to be seismically active. Because Kentucky is affected by several fault zones, Oglesby says, “We can have a damaging earthquake anywhere in Kentucky any time,” though he emphasizes “the really catastrophic risk is in western Kentucky.”

Because Oglesby’s focus is preparedness, he explains, “We have to go by the worst-case scenario.” Potential damage depends on earthquake size, but he says, “Even a 6.5 magnitude could cause severe damage, including the destruction of thousands of homes.” Seeing preparedness as an “ongoing process,” Oglesby also notes that every Kentuckian should have earthquake insurance.

Though earthquakes can’t be reliably predicted, some researchers estimate a 25-40% chance within a 50-year period of a 6.0 or larger magnitude shock in the New Madrid Seismic Zone.

What we can do today
Learn what to do if an earthquake strikes—hold quake drills, keep an emergency kit ready, and know the safest spots at home, work, and school.

Contact local and regional emergency management offices to gather information. Get earthquake insurance as Oglesby strongly recommends. Be aware of statewide preparedness efforts such as “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” training in all Kentucky schools. Participate in state, regional, and national emergency preparedness activities like the Central United States Shakeout on April 28, 2011. It is hoped it will be the largest Drop, Cover, and Hold On drill in history. Look for more information this fall.

The New Madrid Seismic Zone might never erupt as violently again as it did in 1811-12, but as Franklin warns, “It would be a catastrophe if anything like that happened again.”


Earthquake info
To learn what to put in your emergency kit in case of earthquake or other disasters, and to find out more about earthquakes from the Central United States Earthquake Consortium and the U.S. Geological Survey, go to earthquakes.

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