telemarketing-staff

The Benefits of Customer Service Outsourcing

Outsourcing is perhaps the most prevalent word in business today. Its popularity has signaled the changing direction of business practices on a global scale and has, at the same time, become a controversial issue for various groups. But with the advent of the Internet in the 90s and the shifting of the global marketplace, the services sector has also jumped on the bandwagon and has thus created a new group of outsourced service providers specializing in customer service outsourcing. In fact, customer service outsourcing has been undertaken by many companies today, including giant names in the consumer, electronics, and other Internet-based products and services arena. Some of these companies include Dell, Intel, IBM, etc.

 

The main premise for the concept of outsourcing or customer service outsourcing is to decrease overhead expenses. Thus, companies, particularly those in the United States, have been shifting the “non-essential” or non-core functions of their businesses in their own countries and opting to move their customer service processes offshore, where they can enjoy much lower labor and overhead costs. Some examples of the functions outsourced to offshore operations include contact center expertise and technical and customer support functions. In recent years, the most popular offshore locales have been the Philippines, India, and China.

 

Aside from cost-saving benefits, customer service outsourcing is seen as a favorable choice for growth by both large and small-scale companies. Great human resources companies, like Solvo Glocal, have noticed that. For one, outsourcing customer service functions enable companies to focus more on core processes that would enable them to have an edge against competitors in the long run. Outsourced services could also mean significant cutbacks in financial and temporal resources usually allocated for hiring or training new employees and for replacing or upgrading in-house equipment. Start-up businesses can even gain some wisdom in running their operations from outsourcing by letting outsourced service providers utilize new programs or applications that are being considered for deployment and long-term usage. In this way, businesses are not only purchasing the services of the outsourced service providers, but are also banking on the know-how of the providers in handling and ultimately, satisfying the objectives of the customer.

 

Though outsourcing works well in situations where companies need support for direct transactions, the option of customer service outsourcing is also best employed when businesses experience substantial and unanticipated variations in their operations or decide to incorporate major changes in their business models and processes, particularly in their customer service functions. Typically, these scenarios would include a certain company looking into extending its customer hotline hours or expanding its market to another country. In this regard, the company can seek the assistance of a reputable customer service outsourcing provider, which can take on the responsibilities of manning a portion or an entirety of sub-contracted activities. Under the supervision of the client company, the outsourced service provider is then in charge of recruiting, training, and maintaining staff and acquiring the necessary equipment for the outsourced projects.

beautiful-business-woman-is-speaking-on-conference

Are Women Any Less Capable Than Male Public Speakers?

Today we’re going to talk about something a little more unusual… and potentially more controversial!

 

No, we won’t be talking about crop circles. However, we are going to talk about a phenomenon that is just as rare but also just as impressive, and most definitely not a hoax:

Female speakers.

Many top public speakers seem to be male – and indeed, they are… Take Richard Jadick for example. I’m not saying that there aren’t any top female speakers, but it could also be because there are still less women than men in top positions of power or leadership, although the gap is closing.

But never fear: here are a few good examples of good female speakers – a politician, an academic, and a professional speaker. We’ll take a look at three main things that each of them got right and what you as speakers (men too!) can emulate.

 

Hillary Clinton

She was in the running to be the President of the United States. Even now, she’s a potent force in US politics. 

Appearance:

She’s gotten a lot of flak over her appearance – heckled by journalists asking who does her hair, people whining that her pantsuits were too masculine, etc. But that’s because she’s a politician on the campaign trail, and anything is open to fire.

If you aren’t a politician, she’s actually a pretty good role model for how to dress to impress. I like the outfit – a black jacket but with a touch of color at the collar and the hems of her sleeves, which is professional without being too boring or severe.

Also, bling distracts your audience. So if you accessorize, be simple, like that plain gold band around her neck. Large, dangling earrings are the biggest culprits.

Use of anecdote:

Her story about the center for wounded soldiers is definitely a good use of anecdote. It plays to her audience’s nationalist sympathies while demonstrating her humility. Besides that, it gets in a good dig at her opponent when she says that she and McCain were invited as the ‘only two elected officials’.

Emotive language:

Most politicians do it, but I think she managed it particularly well here. Certainly well enough for her audience to give her a standing ovation. Her appeal to the concepts of ‘family and friends’ and her hope that every American person can have that are very personal in her context and are brought across without sounding too rehearsed.

 

Helen Fisher

This lady isn’t quite as well known, so here’s a quick rundown: she’s an anthropologist who specializes in love: on the study of the sociological and scientific processes of love. An academic at Rutgers University, she is widely considered the leading expert on the topic.

Here, she delivers an intriguing 20-minute lecture on the effects of love on the brain, and weighs in on the social trends of women in the workforce and the aging population. And her public speaking style certainly doesn’t hurt her already interesting topic.

Appearance:

She fits the academic image perfectly. The black-framed glasses give her a scholarly air, and the black turtleneck and pants are relaxed without being too casual. Black adds a degree of seriousness, so while she isn’t intimidating, she doesn’t look intimidated either.

Tone:

Her speaking style suits the presentation well – it’s informative, but her variations in tone keep it from being dry.

She maintains a basic casual air throughout the whole presentation and inserts some droll moments of humor through tone of voice. For instance, she dryly quotes George Bernard Shaw, who said that love was overestimating the difference between one woman and another, garnering a delighted laugh from her audience.

These are examples of humor that is not rip-roaring laughter but is equally effective at keeping your presentation lighthearted and engaging. They are well balanced with moments when she is entirely serious, such as when she describes love not as a series of emotions but as a drive in certain centers of the brain.

Voice:

Women’s voices are naturally pitched higher than men are. Which means that if a woman speaks fast, it’s more difficult to hear her than if a man speaks faster. Also, higher voices have a higher chance of sounding shrill. So be careful.

Fisher has a good alto speaking voice – well-modulated and pleasant to listen to. Besides this, she keeps it firm and enunciates her words clearly and slowly, which will help a great deal in speech clarity.

 

Patricia Fripp

As an award-winning, internationally renowned speaker and speech coach, Patricia Fripp has been in the business of public speaking for several decades now. This clip is from her keynote address at Toastmasters International.

Energy level:

Fripp starts talking the moment she walks out of the wings, without waiting to get to centerstage. It shows how much enthusiasm she has, and it surprises the audience and energizes them too, because energy is infectious.

Besides that, she moves around when she talks, utilizing the whole stage rather than simply standing in one spot. Movement also ensures that the audience’s eyes are following you rather than fixed on one point, which again helps keep them awake.

Gesture:

Fripp uses a whole range of gestures to punctuate her words and gestures. Throughout the speech, she is never still, but neither is she too theatrical. Rather, simple hand movements (such as the forceful side-to-side movement to emphasize the words ‘do not’) make her point best.

Because she’s constantly on the move, the gestures are natural. If you spend most of your time speaking and only make isolated moves every so often, you risk the gesture look stiff and rehearsed, especially if you’re nervous.

That being said, do not fidget. If you want to be constantly moving, as Fripp does, make sure each movement is intentional.

Structure:

Fripp herself mentions this: structure and content are absolutely essential to public speaking. The lack of a structure means that you’re not sure what you want to say, and if you’re not sure what message you’re sending out, there’s no chance that your audience is going to get it.

Here’s Fripp’s structure:

Introduction –> three main points: structure, content, style –> elaborate on each –> conclude

It’s foolproof, and definitely worth sticking to if you’re not sure of yourself.

There are plenty of challenges that are specific to women, and even with the general concerns, women may have to interpret some aspects in a very specific manner.

businesswoman-in-an-interview-with-three-business-people

Why Appearance Matters In a Post-50 Job Search

The issue crystallized for Roger Hall at a meeting of a support group for laid-off professionals. Many of the men in the group were around his age, 59 now, and Mr. Hall couldn’t help but notice that some were “still energetic and outgoing,” while others “were really out of shape,” he says. “I thought about these tired-looking guys being interviewed by people who were younger and still very energetic.” Mr. Hall, a marketing executive who had been laid off from Marconi Telecom US in April 2001, says the comparison “strengthened my resolve,” to keep going to the gym several days a week. He also bought new suits and asked a friend to help him update his eyeglass frames. Within a year of being laid off, with the economy still dragging, he landed a new job at a communications firm in New Jersey. “They want to know that you’re going to look sharp and project energy when you meet clients,” Mr. Hall says. On a scale of 1 to 10, looking fit and trim was “probably a six, in terms of helping me to get a job.” The hardest part about looking for a job when you’re over 50 is that you’re no longer 40?or 35?or whatever that magic age is that suggests bushy-tailed youth to you. It can seem as though every hiring manager sees your slightly crinkled brow and immediately wonders if you’re up on the latest industry trends, if you’re willing to work past five o’clock, and whether you’ll have a clue as to what a smart watch is. It’s tempting to try to turn back the clock — just far enough that these questions don’t even come to your interviewer’s mind. In this latest, tough job market, some people are doing just that: 30% of men and 14% of women who had cosmetic surgery in 2001 say the decision was work-related, according to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in Alexandria, Va. “A few years ago, we had all these dot-commers who were young, and older people felt pressure from below to look more youthful,” says Richard Gregory, a plastic surgeon near Orlando, Fla. “More recently, there have been all these layoffs, and people are having things done to remain competitive in that environment.” Career coaches acknowledge that looking younger — or looking less old — can shorten a job search if you go about it in a sensible way and have realistic expectations (and if all the other parts of the equation, such as your job history, are what they should be). “Older men and women who are fit definitely have fewer re-entry challenges,” notes Joyce K. Reynolds, a business coach in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. For some, looking younger does mean literally knocking five or 10 years off their bodies by dyeing their hair or getting cosmetic work. (One surgeon reported that breast reduction was a common request among aging executive men.) But for others, such as Mr. Hall, it’s more a matter of drawing attention to qualities they still possess, but that are too quickly associated with youth — vigor, longevity and the ability to generate fresh ideas. 

Projecting an Image 

The desire to project a youthful image is by no means limited to job seekers. Dixie Taylor, an Orlando real-estate agent who’s just on the cusp of 50, recently had an eyelid lift — a popular procedure among the 50-plus set, according to several doctors. Ms. Taylor reports that a tendency to have puffy eyes became more exaggerated as she got older, and she had come to dread seeing a tired-looking face in the mirror all the time. She felt that her ability to win new clients was compromised by her looking tired. “I have lots of experience in this market and lots of energy, as opposed to younger agents, who just have energy,” Ms. Taylor says. But as one gets older, actually having lots of stamina and projecting that image can be two different things. So she had the operation. “I’ve done a lot more business since then,” she says. “I feel more confident now; maybe I capture more people because of that.” Still, there are fields, like technology and media, where being cutting edge is paramount, aging is taboo, and executives really do want to stall time. Ronald Iverson, a plastic surgeon in Pleasanton, Calif., outside of San Francisco, has a steady flow of patients who work in Silicon Valley. “I had a woman say to me the other day, ‘I’m 50 years old and everyone around me is younger, and I don’t feel good at all,’ ” Dr. Iverson recalls. Though the woman reported exercising regularly, she still wanted to discuss several age-erasing options, including laser resurfacing (to diminish wrinkles) and a full facelift. “She’s someone who’s afraid of losing her job and is looking for a competitive edge,” Dr. Iverson says. When is plastic surgery appropriate? Only you can decide whether it’s worthwhile for you. Think about it as an investment in yourself: Weigh what you’ll have to put in (the cost of surgery, the time it might take to heal) against what you hope to gain (more confidence or self-esteem, or a competitive edge). Take stock of your expectations to make sure they’re realistic: Fewer wrinkles or a better chin won’t help you land jobs for which you’re simply a poor fit. Dr. Gregory notes, “A person who isn’t taking care of their health in general and expects [cosmetic work] to really change everything is a poor candidate [for plastic surgery].” 

Trying Too Hard

Image consultants warn that people who try too hard to be youthful risk drawing attention to the age they’re trying to hide. A favorite pet peeve: Men who dye their hair “shoe-polish black” with a do-it-yourself kit instead of springing for more subtle professional hair coloring. Gail McMeekin, a career coach in the Boston area, had a female client who had stalled while moving up the management ranks in the not-for-profit sector. “She was 56 years old and was trying to look cute,” Ms. McMeekin explains. “She wore short skirts when she needed expensive-looking, professional-looking dresses to get into that corner office.” Ms. McMeekin persuaded her to lengthen her hemline, and she eventually got the bigger job, with a bigger budget to manage, that she’d been looking for. When it comes to hair and clothes, strike a balance between up-to-date, age-appropriate, and what’s accepted in your field. Ms. Reynolds points out that if your haircut or eyeglasses or shoes look 10 years out of date, interviewers will wonder if your business skills are out of date, too. Don’t be afraid to seek feedback on your new appearance from friends, family, savvy sales clerks and even professional image consultants and hr services workers. Damian Birkel, who counsels out-of-work professionals in Winston-Salem, N.C., says a salesperson once suggested he toss out all his traditional blue dress shirts. Why? They clashed with his gray hair and drew attention to it. He wears gray shirts instead, which blend with his hair and subdue it. The new look is suitably professional, but he says he feels more put-together and, in fact, younger. Career coaches also warn that older job seekers should be realistic about how much their nips and tucks, new glasses or darkened hair will help them. “These things will burn five years off, not 15,” cautions ArLyne Diamond, a professional-development consultant based in Santa Clara, Calif. ‘A Perceived Threat’ If your last salary had been at the pinnacle of the range for your position, for example, or you’re talking to hiring managers who are all much younger than you, the problem might not be age, but the accumulated experience that goes with it. “It’s an issue of a mature person vs. a less experienced person?and you’re a perceived threat,” says Ms. Diamond. Still, as Ms. Taylor and Mr. Hall concluded, you’re more likely to get the work you want — and the salary you deserve for the experience you have — if you look bright-eyed and enthusiastic. Darrick Antell, a New York City plastic surgeon who counts CEOs and investment-banking executives among his clients, made this comparison: If you were planning to sell a cool old car, he explains, “you’d wax it and shine the chrome and vacuum the inside, so it looks fit and well-maintained instead of old and tired.” In other words, if you’re a fit and well-maintained job seeker, hiring managers are less likely to wonder how many miles you have left — and more likely to see you as someone who’s been around the block a few times, but is clearly still ready to roll.

If you want to get more into employment, human resources and staffing solutions, there are great companies online with great resources, such as Solvo Global. Always stay updated and in the market.

Who?.com

You’re probably among the 90 percent of people who’ve tried registering a domain name  and been rejected. That’s a catastrophe if the name you tried to register was your brand name. The value of dotcoms has inflated in the wake of the panic this dilemma has caused, with domain name prices now in the million-dollar class.

So, will prices keep inflating? And what is the trend? Will dotcom disappear, to be replaced with a more flexible domain structure?

To answer the first question: This is only the beginning. The value of dotcom domain names like “real estate” or “land” will never decrease. My advice is, even if the price is outrageous, buy the domain name now. The price will have doubled next year.

So, will dotcom disappear, making way for a more flexible structure? Yes and no. New structures are already appearing. And, as society embraces the Internet, “.com” will disappear.

Not from addresses, but from the way they’re vociferated. Dotcom, like “www,” has become such a familiar element in addresses that we no longer have to say it. We are lazy, stressed and keen to abbreviate everything possible, including web addresses.

This leads us to the main domain-name problem: We now assume that every address ends in dotcom, especially if we live in the States! This is fortunate for companies with addresses which accurately indicate their identity. Not so lucky for the majority without.

For this reason, over the next five years, we probably won’t see a major change in the existing domain structure. The high profile, recognizable domain names will not be challenged. Nobody would dare to use them  a serious Catch-22 which someone will have to break.

But how? Would “.net” or “.org” be alternatives? I bet you wouldn’t suggest www.fosters.net if I asked you about the Fosters beer address. The problem is, however, that there are several “fosters” in cyberspace, all needing an address.

So what is the second best choice? There isn’t one, apart from creating a new name. You can place “e” or “my” or something else in front of your brand name to secure an address. But does this help? I wouldn’t be able to guess your address. This would mean that you’d have to promote the new name as heavily as your existing bricks-and-mortar name. Go get help with this issue and more marketing and SEO strategies, check Student Marketing Agency.

Assuming that the Internet grows as rapidly as all trends indicate, three years from now, you would have to be promoting two brands on two budgets! Unless you decide to change your bricks-and-mortar name to your dotcom name, of course.

And that might be the case for many.

 

What is SEO Writing?

How Search Engine Optimization Works

If writing is an art, then online writing is a hybrid of both art and science. Search engine optimization (SEO) writing requires research and statistics as well as a good command of the written word. This article contains SEO help to understand and improve Internet writing skills.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It means any online content that is carefully built around keywords or phrases that sum up the content of the article.

How SEO Works

Search engine “spiders” crawl through each page that is published on the web to pick out its main topics. Essentially, a person who creates SEO content is basically writing for search engines, making the key points of the article obvious to them with keywords and phrases embedded in the text.

When Internet readers have a need, question, or problem, they type what they’re looking for into a search engine. The closer an article comes to matching their search term, the more likely it is to appear at the top of the results list and the more likely it is to be read.

Major search engines like Google and Yahoo also offer services that place relevant ads on a page based on its keywords. Women reading an article about how to find the best-fitting bra, for example, will be more likely to click on an advertisement for an online retailer’s lingerie sale than they would be to click on a completely unrelated ad.

SEO Tips for Online Writers

Writing SEO content is a complex interplay that naturally takes writers a while to absorb. Those who learn to effectively use search engine optimization know how to:

  • Choose the right topics: subjects that have a high level of reader interest and a low number of competing web pages
  • Pick appropriate keywords: words and phrases that are relevant to the content of a page
  • Position keywords correctly: put critical keywords in the right places and make it look like a natural, effortless process
  • Provide valuable information: “fluff” content that uses a lot of words to say nothing makes a poor SEO article
  • If you feel like you need professional help on SEO services, visit SMA.

Doing all of the four points above results in a high-quality article and a better Google page rank. Page ranking is a complex algorithm based on keyword accuracy, volume of page visits, and number of incoming and outgoing links. Improving page rank is essential to increasing traffic to any given page.

These SEO tips are designed to help beginning Internet writers learn and understand the basics of search engine optimization. Good keyword use tells search engines what an article is about and how good it is, thus offering readers the opportunity to find it through their search queries.

Standby Lighting

Two large carbon fibre batteries in my workshop are used to provide standby AC and DC lighting for the house. The Elecsol 270 AH 12 volt is a carbon fibre type from 12voltz.com and weighs 62 kg and measures 51 x 27 x 24 cms. It is designed for marine and leisure use and can survive many deep charge/discharge cycles, unlike a car battery.

The battery provides emergency 12v DC lighting and also 230 volt AC lighting via a 450 watt sine wave 12 volt inverter. The inverter normally feeds part of the downstairs AC lighting circuit via a changeover relay.

We have several 12 volt fluorescent lamps around the house for those nights when Suffolk has no power! The system can also supply most of the downstairs 230 volt mains lighting circuit using the TBS Powersine 12/450 sine wave 450 watt invertor. The invertor has a 13 A mains socket outlet which can also feed other mains appliances as required. Check eBay auctions for a mains inverter

I have only recently added the second battery, so we should now have several days storage capacity for lighting and office use, in the event of power cuts. I have also been investigating 12 volt lighting to find something that is really bright. This eBay trader in Germany has just the thing. A 12 volt energy saving fluorescent bulb with a built-in inverter, brilliant!

Woodburning Book

Edited extracts from the 1977 by kind permission of David Thear of Broad Leys Publishing

Wood As Fuel

Inflation, particularly the rise in the prices of fuels, has caused all of us to look carefully at our costs and what we are buying. Is there some way in which it is possible to heat our homes in winter, or heat our water at a lower cost? Perhaps there is. Using wood as an alternative or supplementary fuel may save a great deal.

Wood has half the calorific value of coal, and at the current bulk purchase price in country areas of £50/ton, is well worth considering as fuel. However, to make it worthwhile, it is necessary to use it wisely and to extract the maximum heat from it. There are two essential ways to achieve this, by burning only seasoned wood and by utilising an efficient woodstove.

In Britain we have traditionally burnt togs in the home in an open fireplace. This is extremely attractive but very wasteful, as 80% of the heat disappears up the chimney. Furthermore, the higher you stoke the fire, the more oxygen it demands, and the greater those spine chilling draughts. Indeed, in a centrally heated house, an open fireplace can draw valuable heat up the chimney and away.

Slow Combustion Woodstove

The most efficient type of woodstove is basically a metal box which stands clear of the wall and is connected to the chimney by a short flue pipe. This box, if constructed well, with primary and secondary air inlets, burns wood completely to fine ash. It can be regulated to do so slowly and to give off an even temperature for the whole burning cycle of the wood. Thus, instead of obtaining heat from only two logs out of ten put on the open fire, in a good woodstove we can obtain the heat from at least five, and maybe as many as eight out of ten.

When wood burns, first the absorbed water is driven off. After about 300°F Our wood begins to break down chemically, giving off volatiles such as carbon monoxide and sulphur. To burn these, extra oxygen is needed and this is provided by a secondary air inlet.

A good Scandinavian woodstove like the Jotul 118 burns logs from end to end like a cigar, and forces the air inside the stove into an S-shaped pattern, thus ensuring complete combustion. It achieves this at a near constant temperature throughout the burning cycle. Some Scandinavian woodstoves are constructed of cast iron, instead of the sheet steel used elsewhere. The Scandinavians have a long experience in this field, and claim that iron retains heat longer and distributes it more evenly than steel. Further, that it will last better.

A poorly made woodstove, which is not precision built to be completely airtight, will not achieve the very slow combustion necessary to extract the maximum heat and return it to the room. It will produce the required heat at the expense of using far more wood and, if not robustly constructed, will deteriorate rapidly in is few years.

The efficiency of a woodburning stove is rated by the amount of heat from the combustion that is returned to the room. Similarly with a boiler, how much heat is transferred to the water.

It is not possible to make precise statements about different stoves because their performance depends on too many factors. For example, the type of wood, how much moisture it includes, how closely it is packed in the burner, the type of chimney, how dry it is and whether gales are causing downdraughts, and so on. However, anyone considering purchasing a woodstove can try to assess its capability and whether it is good value for money by checking the following points:

  1. How long has the manufacturer been producing woodstoves? What is their reputation?
  2. Is it built to last? What metal is it? How thick is the metal? How are the joints sealed and are the doors ground to fit precisely so that the stove is completely airtight?
  3. How long are the logs it will accept? This can save much sawing in a year. How often does it need reloading and how long can it keep in on a full load when turned down? What is its claimed output?
  4. Obtain the names of other customers in your area and ask them for their findings. Does the stove give out as much heat as claimed? Check the kind of fuel used and whether it is seasoned.
  5. Does the performance vary at different times? If you can, check with more than one customer, as it would be a shame to judge a woodstove adversely if one person has a problem chimney.

Dry Wood

The wood you use in your stove should be thoroughly seasoned. Fresh cut timber is called green and can be more than 50% water. Drying out the wood by storing can reduce this to about 20%. The best time to cut wood is in the Summer when much of the sap is drawn out in the leaves. Cut and stack it in dry and airy conditions for at least 6 months before burning, and preferably a year.

The drier the wood you burn and the more efficient the combustion in your woodstove, the less tar deposits you will get in your chimney. However, you will still get some, and the chimney should be swept twice a year.

With a box stove fitted into a closed fireplace by a short flue pipe, it is a good idea to cut a soot cleaning hole with a well fitted door above the fireplace, for the sweep to gain access with a vacuum cleaner. You can hang a picture over this door when it is not being used.

Sources of Wood

  1. There is much dead wood already available in the countryside, often just left to rot. Many stretches of woodland, particularly private woodland, are full of trees carrying dead wood and in need of pruning. Often the dead branches have already fallen and are littering the forest floor. In fact many stretches of private woodland are downright dangerous places to be in.
  2. On common land it is permissible to collect fallen, dead wood.
  3. Many farms have old gates, fencing and posts, and timber from demolished barns.
  4. Many trees are felled annually for road and building development. Ask the foreman what the fate of the trees is likely to be.
  5. In towns, demolition sites always produce timber which is often burnt on site.
  6. Local Authority Parks Departments too are pruning and taking out trees. These are usually burnt at some central point and are worthy of investigation.
  7. Sawmills often sell off-cuts which make excellent fuel, particularly as no sawing is required.
  8. Tree surgeons, loppers and contract gardeners are worth approaching; their addresses will be in the Yellow Pages Guide.

It is in the search for wood that a car trailer comes into its own. Here, some sort of bartering arrangement between friends, can be beneficial. The authors of this book do not have a trailer, but have the use of one in exchange for the loan of their grain grinder, used for the preparation of poultry food.

Newspaper Logs

Newspaper is, after all, processed wood, and there’s an awful lot of newspaper lying around.

Old newspapers and magazines can quite easily be converted into ‘logs’ by rolling up as tightly as possible and securing with some bits of old wire. If these are tossed into a container with a few inches of waste oil and left for a few days, the absorbed oil will ensure a thorough burning. Leave to ‘dry’ before putting them in the burner where they will last for a couple of hours.

The secret is in rolling them really tightly, and if you don’t have the muscle power, there is a piece of equipment called the Logrol which will do this for you.

Buying Wood

You can of course buy wood in bulk either by volume or by the ton. Volume is measured in cubic feet. If you are offered wood by other terms, conversion is as follows:

1 Board foot or foot board measure (fbm) = 1/12 cubic ft.

1 Cord foot = 16 cubic ft.

1 Cord = 128 cubic ft or 8 cord ft.

If you are buying wood green the weight equivalents given by the FAO are:

Coniferous Wood 39 lbs/cubic foot.

Deciduous Wood 47 lbs/cubic foot.

General Wood   45 lbs/cubic foot.

Therefore roughly for green wood

Coniferous – 60 cubic feet = 1 ton.

Deciduous – 50 cubic feet = 1 ton.

Mixed   – 55 cubic feet = 1 ton.

Storing Wood

If the wood you collect or buy has not dried out or ‘seasoned’ it will need to be stacked out for the sun and the air to evaporate much of the moisture.

The ideal place would be open to fresh air but out of the rain. For some this may not be possible, so choose a hard dry surface that doesn’t become waterlogged and drive in stakes for each end of your woodpile. Make sure air can circulate through the stack and that it isn’t under trees. You can then stack your cut logs, remembering if possible, to cover them in winter.

 It must be emphasised that these measurements are only rough. The weight of a volume of timber varies with its density and thickness of the logs and how much water it is carrying.

When buying wood we have to take what is available, but it is useful to know what woods have been good for burning on an open fire. As a generalisation the hardwoods are denser contain less moisture and are favoured.

Elm wood was plentiful because of the ravages of Dutch Elm disease. There were originally about 23 million trees in the risk area of the South, East and Midlands of England, and about half of these were lost by 1980. Unfortunately, the area of the disease has spread, and another 5 million trees may be lost in the North and East. Elm logs should be left to dry for a full year and then they burn very well in a box stove.

Tools

How much preparation you will need to undertake with wood will depend on the form in which you obtain it. If you are lucky enough to have logs delivered in quantity, the right size and thickness for your woodstove, you will save yourself a good deal of work. If not you’ll need a few tools.

For cutting and splitting small logs you will need a hand axe and bowsaw. Buy the biggest bowsaw that you can use comfortably. For heavier work you will need a tree axe, a sledge hammer and two steel wedges. You can now buy plastic wedges to keep the split open, or you could make your own hardwood wedges. You will also need a saw horse.

If you are cutting a great deal of timber a chain saw is worth considering. Your bow saw will cut through wood up to 6 inches diameter and your hand axe can be used to split these down to thinner pieces if needed. You can cut larger logs up to a foot thick with your bowsaw but it is hard work if you have a lot to do.

The hammer and wedges are essential for splitting thick logs and, with practice, splitting along the line of the grain and avoiding knots, it can be a very satisfying job. However, wedges can be dangerous if they splinter and fly out, so if you want to be really safe, wear a hard hat or crash helmet with an eye shield and use a non metal hammer.

If you decide that you have enough work to justify £200 – £250 on a chainsaw, then go to your local dealer, explaining your requirements, and listen carefully to his advice. Great care is needed in the handling of this tool and it should only be used with the utmost care. It is a useful idea to get some practice with one, either with a friend who has one, or with the supplier who will gladly demonstrate and show you how to use and maintain it properly. With continual use the chains lose their sharpness quickly so it is useful to have a spare chain. With a file and a guide it is not too difficult to sharpen a chain yourself.

Felling Trees

With a chain saw you can undertake the cutting up of trees and the felling of small ones. Large trees or dead trees are a job for experts and should be left to them.

To cut down a tree, first have a clear idea where it is to land and how much space it will take up when it is down. Make two cuts to form a notch about a third of the way into the tree so that the line of fall is in the centre of the notch. Make a third cut as shown, leaving a small amount in the middle. The tree should then fall, turning first on the centre part as a hinge. With a heavy tree this may break, so watch out for the trunk to kick back over the stump.

Felling trees requires a licence from the Forestry Commission. The exceptions, for trees on your own land, are as follows:

  1. Fruit trees past their prime.
  2. Trees in your garden, providing they do not have a preservation order on them.
  3. Trees with a trunk diameter of less than 3 inches, 6 inches in a coppice.
  4. Trees in a woodland up to a volume of 325 cubic inches in any quarter, in order to improve the growth of other trees.

On common land you can collect dead wood.

Managing Your Own Woodlot 

If you are fortunate enough to have land, it may be worthwhile having your own woodlot. If the land is level and fertile, you may decide that it is more profitable to give it over to hay and use the income from that to buy in wood. If, however, the terrain is steep and poor, and unsuitable for anything else, then it is definitely a worthwhile proposition.

There is also the long-term environmental aspect that if one is burning trees, one has the responsibility for replacing them, not only for oneself, but for future generations, and for the well-being of the planet.

Tree Planting 

The time to plant trees is in the dormant stage, between October and March, ensuring that the ground is frost-free. Specimen trees should be at least 10′ apart, but for coppicing, 6″ is adequate.

Dig a hole deep enough to house the roots and base comfortably, then break up the remaining soil in the hole. Insert the young tree and spread the roots out, then return the soil around the roots. Make sure that the soil does not exceed the original ‘collar’ or soil mark, then firm the earth by treading.

In exposed areas, staking may be necessary, and a good tie is made from old nylon stockings. Wire should never be used as it causes bark damage.

If there is the likelihood of rabbit damage, protect the saplings with a wire-mesh sleeve, dug into the ground.

Tree Nursery 

If you have a sheltered spot with ready access to water, it may be worth having your own small tree nursery for replacement stock. You will obviously have to wait several decades before coppicing some of them, but it is a good plan to have a few seedlings available to fill a vacant spot. Each one is, at least, a future replacement for another tree felled.

The name of Johny Appleseed, who planted apple pips on his journeys across pioneer America, is still revered.

Soak the seeds for 24 hours in cold water prior to sowing: this helps to break the dormancy cycle. Sow in a 50/50 peat/sharp sand mixture, in Spring or early Summer.

Polythene pots are ideal, and if these are stood in a bed of sand in the shade, less frequent watering is necessary.

Barely cover the seed and ensure that the sowing medium never dries out. Be patient, for you may have to wait several months for some species to germinate.

Acorns and conkers are particularly popular with children.

Some of the faster growing species will be ready to plant out in November.

Harvesting Wood

Old established trees will need pruning excess, dead or diseased branches. Unless the tree is being felled the cuts should be painted with bitumen to prevent disease. Other trees in the woodlot can either be felled completely, and saplings planted in the vacant spot, or felled for coppicing.

The former involves felling alternate trees in a close-planted copse, to allow the remainder to spread. The latter method involves cutting the tree and leaving a stump which subsequently throws out new shoots. Willow readily responds to this treatment, as well as the fast-growing Eucalyptus. A certain proportion of these off-shoots are then harvested on a regular basis.

The Environmental Aspect 

Britain is one of the least wooded countries in Europe, with only 8% of the land covered by wood or forest. The Forestry Commission has done much to redress the balance (a 3% increase since the war) but as their main interest is in growing commercial timber, much of the planting is quick-growing conifer. All over the world the numbers of deciduous trees are falling, and Britain is no exception.

The situation in certain parts of the world, notably India, Central Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, is even more serious. Here, the daily search for firewood by a rapidly increasing population has resulted in the wholesale deforestation of huge tracts of land.

Our tree canopy plays an essential part in the ecological balance. Without trees and hedges, soil erosion occurs, the natural wildlife is dispersed and destroyed, and oil a larger scale the actual climatic conditions may become distorted.

Both central and local government could give a lead by education and encouragement, in the planting of trees. Some local authorities such as Truro in Cornwall, have set a praiseworthy example, by giving away free seeds of such species as Southern Beech and Monterey Pine to their residents, as well as providing encouragement and information.

Central Government however, with its plans for land nationalisation, has unwittingly drastically reduced the planting of trees on private estates, for the consensus of opinion amongst private landowners is ‘tree planting may be good for posterity but why should I do it for the state

12 Volt DC Lighting

Two large carbon fibre batteries in my workshop are used to provide standby AC and DC lighting for the house. The batteries are the huge Elecsol 270 AH carbon fibre types from 12voltz.com and these provide over 6 kWh of storage. They are charged from my wind turbine and PV solar panels and I am now in the habit of using power from them to power various twelve volt lights around the house for everyday use.

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My Morningstar solar charge controller manages the battery condition for me and I have made a small 12v distribution panel which has safety fuses built-in. The total current consumption can be monitored on the Morningstar, as well as the state of charge of the battery bank.

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The thing to remember about using a 12 volt lighting system, is that you must size the cables to carry the much higher currents involved at twelve volts. I have run hefty low voltage fused feeds to the upstairs and downstairs ceiling areas to enable me to provide lighting all over the house. This is handy when we have a power outage, but increasingly we are using the twelve volt system for normal use instead of mains power.

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I have found several lights and fittings which provide a really decent light. Quite often you find that caravan type fittings are rather dim and unsuitable for regular use. The one I am using as I type this in my small office is an 18 watt PL fluorescent fitting made by Sollatek and called the Lumina 18. It has an efficient inverter and draws only 1.3 Amps.

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In my workshop is a 2D fluorescent fitting made by Marlec and called the LL01 Leisurelight. This gives a nice warm light which might be better suited for a lounge area intended for relaxation. It is rated at 12 watts, so is not as bright as the Lumina 18 mentioned above.

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I recently bought four 12 volt fluorescent energy saving bulbs similar to the ones from this eBay trader.  These have a clever built-in inverter in the bulb and are really bright. Mine only draw 1.5 Amps each making less than 20 watts consumption at twelve volts. They are the ES fitting type, which at least stops you accidentally plugging them into a UK BC type mains fitting! Sourcing ES lampholders is a bit tricky in the UK, but I found CPC Plc do stock several surface mounting types. I will buy some pendant types the next time we are in Europe.

 

Growing Wood for Fuel

I have given over part of the far corner of the garden to growing some trees to see if I can replenish some of the wood I use in the woodburner for biomass fuel. I do not have anywhere near enough land to be self sufficient in wood, but then again we only use the woodstove when the temperature outside drops really low, as we have gas central heating for daily use.

After some research into differing varieties to grow, I decided to plant some hybrid fast growing willow trees. These came as 1 metre rods and I planted them at 1 metre spacing in early February this year. The picture below shows the first shoots appearing after 2 months.

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The variety I chose was Dasyclados “Super Willow”, from The Willow Bank, which is very fast growing and can be coppiced and harvested for fuel after 3-4 years. They thrive in damp conditions and should grow 2-4 metres a year. I am hoping that the rabbits and deer do not pilfer the new shoots.

growingfoodforfuel2

I had to remove some old Morello cherry trees, which never bore any useable fruit, to make way for the willows, but they are now in the log pile for a year or two seasoning to air dry for the fire. The new willow will obviously require at least a year seasoning after cutting, but I hope to replant some of the cuttings to produce more new trees and of course the old ones will regrow after harvesting.

Woodburning as a source of home heat, has been around for many years. I bought a book back in 1977 which taught me a lot about woodstoves and wood burning. I have reproduced some highlights from The Woodburning Book for you to enjoy.

6 Steps to Keyword Success

6 Steps to Keyword SuccessIt is surprising how often keyword research is overlooked when people talk about optimizing their website, blog or other online assets for search engines.  The thinking often goes that when you come up some keywords that represent your product, and you optimize your online efforts around these keywords, your target market will find you.  There are several variations of this thinking.

It’s a good start; however, this is only part of the equation.  A key factor is missing, which is how many internet searchers are typing those particular queries into search engines.  It is imperative that, before beginning any kind of search optimization, you find out what queries people are using to search for your type of product or service.

6 Steps to Keyword Success - keyword researchFor example, you may think that “keyword research” is a great keyword.  If you dig deeper, you would find that “keyword tool” and “google keyword” are relevant keywords which are actually searched more often in Google.  Depending on the context, these may be better keywords to optimize for.

It’s the small step of gathering that intelligence which will make all the difference to your search optimization.  It is surprisingly quick, easy and free to gather all of the information you need to make informed keyword selections.  Here are six steps to keyword success:

  • Brainstorm keyword ideas and themes: Use your knowledge of industry jargon and key terms to create a basic list. Include everything you can think of that is relevant to your product or service.
  • Use a keyword tool: Take brainstorming a step further and gather intelligence. To get expand reach and increase awareness for a brand, marketing agencies use a variety of marketing tools. You should do the same. The best keyword tool for every reputable marketing professional out there, without doubt, is the free Google Keyword Tool.  While other search engines exist, SEO efforts should be focused on Google search results.  Where better a place to gather keyword intelligence than Google itself?
  • Build out a list: Spend some time with the Google keyword tool and build a list of every conceivable keyword combination that has search volume.
  • Do a ranking scan: Find out how you are currently ranking in the Google SERP’s for the most relevant keywords in your keyword list.
  • Look at your analytics: Log in to your Google analytics account and take a close look at what keywords your organic search traffic is coming from currently. Watch the video below to learn more about Google Analytics.

  • Analyze your keywords: Once you’ve gathered intelligence on your keywords, sit back and look for opportunities. For example, is there a keyword in your list where you are currently ranked 15th, that is already bringing decent traffic to your website and has big search volume (i.e. big traffic potential)?  That’s probably a keyword you should target.

Keyword selection should be based on more than just what sounds good.  It should also be based on search volume (i.e. traffic potential), current rankings and current traffic volume.

Finally, of course, your keywords should always be as relevant as possible to the content of the page that you are optimizing.  For, all of the non-relevant traffic you can get will not bring you results of it does not convert. To allow yourself to focus more on other equally important aspects of your business, think about increasing your online visibility with the help of a firm that specializes in professional SEO services.The services provided are cost-efficient and convenient and can be customized according to your needs.