May 2010
Howle's Hints

Make May Productive and Safe

This May when the warm weather brings you outdoors for work and play, use ingenuity to make your days productive and safe.


A piece of treated lumber can be used to make a decorative gate entrance on your place.

Here’s Your Sign

Spruce up your gate entrances this spring with a sign. With a section of treated lumber, all you need is a coffee can, jigsaw, router and gloss black paint to create a personality for your place. First, I use a coffee can to trace out, cut and scallop the corners. Next, I rout the edges and rout out the letters. (You can print out large letters of any font on your home computer to be traced out onto the sign surface.) Finally, I sand the wood, paint the letters black and attach the sign above any gate entrance.

Avoid Cold Taters

Grand Ole Opry Star, Little Jimmy Dickens, sang, "Grab a Cold Tater and Wait." On a camping trip, no one wants a cold potato. To save more time for fishing on your next camping trip, cook your potatoes in advance. I recently prepared 20 potatoes for a group of campers. At 11 a.m., I cooked the foil-wrapped potatoes in the oven. As soon as they were done, I removed the potatoes from the oven and placed them in a Coleman cooler lined with aluminum foil. After placing a piece of foil over the batch of potatoes, I closed the lid and duct taped it so no one would open it until the evening meal. At 8 p.m., the potatoes were removed from the cooler and they were piping hot.

The best kept secret for battling mosquitoes this May is the ThermaCELL.


Mosquito Free

Thermacell ( is a product that has been around for a while, but I feel it’s one of the best-kept secrets in the outdoor industry. This small unit uses a tiny propane canister to heat a metal surface. A chemical impregnated strip slides into the metal surface emitting fumes keeping mosquitoes and other flying scourges away while you enjoy outdoor activities. You can be swarmed by mosquitos, turn the ThermaCELL unit on and they vanish. I’ve used this product on turkey hunts, bank fishing on the pond and sitting around the campfire on summer nights and this unit really does keep the mosquitoes away. The best thing is you don’t have to spray bug repellent all over your body to be safe from mosquitoes, simply turn on the ThermaCELL.

Axe Men

An axe is one of the most versatile outdoor tools. A single-bit axe has the hammer shape on one end and the cutting blade or bit on the other. A double-bit axe has two cutting ends. Picking the right length axe makes chopping work easier and safer. To find out if an axe for all-around outdoor use fits, place the end of the handle under your arm pit. You should be able to comfortably cradle the axe head in the cup of your hand. You may want an axe used predominantly for tree felling to be longer to allow more momentum during the swing. I prefer the shorter, single-bit camp axe because it has more uses. With this axe, I can fell trees, cut off the limbs or split firewood for the campfire all in one tool. The shorter handle makes it easier to pack.

Avoid Tetanus

Tetanus is a serious, sometimes fatal, disease of the central nervous system that is caused by an infection of a wound with spores of the bacterium, Clostridium Tetani. These spores live in the soil, so greater risks of getting the disease while taking part in outdoor activities are apparent. A fish hook in the hand, getting a foot cut on broken glass or any puncture wound appearing contaminated deserves close attention. To avoid the dreaded disease with symptoms like lockjaw and severe muscle spasms, get a tetanus vaccine. For minor injuries, get a tetanus shot if your last one was over 10 years ago. For serious puncture or contaminated wounds, get a tetanus shot if your last one was over five years ago. Your local health department or doctor can administer the shot and give you more information.


A close-up of a copperhead. Notice the cat-like, vertical pupils.

Snakes Alive

The four species of poisonous snakes in the U.S. are the coral snake, copperhead, cottonmouth and rattlesnake. If you are close enough, you can look at the pupils of a snake and poisonous snakes will have cat-like, vertical pupils while non-poisonous snakes will have round pupils. However, many folks don’t like to get close enough to examine the pupils of live snakes. While the cottonmouth and rattlesnake carry deadly levels of toxins, the copperhead is a poisonous snake with some of the least toxic venom.

This 12-year-old girl shows the after effects of a copperhead bite on her right foot.


I photographed the foot of a 12-year-old girl who had been bitten by a copperhead. The foot swelled and had a darkened, bruised appearance, but the bite was minor, and she didn’t have to receive any anti-venom. The doctor simply cleansed the bite marks with iodine and gave her a tetanus shot since the mouth of most snakes can contain contaminants. The young lady told me that when she received the bite, it burned like fire. In addition to the burning, she said it felt like getting stung by a hornet.

On the Campout

On camping trips, bread can become dry and stale. To restore freshness of your bread products, place the bread inside a skillet with a top over the fire. When the skillet gets hot, add a splash of water, then, recover the bread. In a short while, you’ll have fresh bread.

A corroded battery can be a real headache when the boat or truck won’t crank. Baking soda and water works well to remove and prevent corrosion. Mix the solution strong with baking soda. Rubbing petroleum jelly on the terminals also prevents corrosion.

Take the time to get youth involved in your outdoor activities this May, and you will be doing your share to reduce childhood obesity and addiction to gaming electronics.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.