What to Do During a Wildfire















If you are warned of an approaching wildfire, get your family together, then:

  1. Evacuate your pets and anyone with medical or physical limitations and young children immediately.
  2. Wear protective clothing.
  3. Remove any flammable materials like trash, lawn furniture and vehicles from around the house.
  4. Shut off any natural gas, propane or fuel oil supplies at the source. Check garden hoses and be ready to soak roofs, shrubs and trees with water within 15 feet of buildings.
  5. Close all windows and doors, and remove all flammable window coverings.  Open fireplace damper and close the screen.  Close outside attic, eaves, and basement vents. Close all shutters, blinds or heavy non-combustible window coverings to reduce radiant heat. Turn on outside lights and a light in every room for visibility in heavy smoke and distribute flashlights to all family members.
  6. Fill pools, hot tubs, garbage cans and any other large containers with water.
  7. Place a ladder against the house in clear view.
  8. Back your car into the driveway and close all windows.
  9. Disconnect automatic garage door openers so you can open the door without power, if necessary. Close the doors.
  10. Monitor news reports so you know the danger you’re facing. Prepare bug-out bags for evacuation and be sure to include your important papers and anything you “can’t live without”. Pack these items into the car.
  11. If you are told to evacuate, follow routes directed by local officials. Leave doors and windows closed but not locked. It may be necessary for firefighters to gain quick entry to fight fire in your home. The area will be patrolled by sheriff’s deputies or policemen. Fires can change directions quickly, be prepared to change your route if blocked.
  12. If you’re in a car, roll up the windows and close air vents. Drive slowly with headlights on. Watch for other vehicles and pedestrians. Do not drive through heavy smoke.
  13. If you have to stop, turn the engine off, but keep headlights on for visibility. Keep windows and air vents  closed. Get on floor of auto and cover yourself with a blanket. Call 911.
  14. If you’re caught in the open, go to a clearing. If you’re close to a road, lie down in a ditch and cover yourself with anything that can protect you from the heat.
  15. If you evacuated, don’t go home after a wildfire until you’re told it’s safe to do so.
  16. Hopefully your home is unharmed. Be sure to check roofs and attics for hot spots and sparks and extinguish them immediately. Check every few hours for a day.
  17. Use caution when entering a building and avoid standing water. There may be an electrical charge.
  18. Check all utilities and consult a professional if damage has been done.

References: Nationwide Insurance

Billie Nicholson, Editor
July 2014

Wildfire is Coming. Are You Ready?



Due to continued drought, the possibility of wildfire continues throughout the western states. When fires burn through areas, some homes are spared and others are not. Is there a way to make your property more fire resistant?

One way to help protect your home is to create a defensible space around it. What does this mean? It’s a buffer you create between buildings on your property and the trees, grass, shrubs or any wildland that surrounds it. This space will slow or stop the spread of wildfire and protect your home from catching fire. Defensible space will also provide protection for firefighters defending your property. To create a 100 foot space, divide it into two zones.

Zone one is 30 feet around your house or any other structure associated with it. In this area work on a major clean up removing all dead plants, grass and weeds from your lawn. Remove dead or dry leaves and pine needles from your yard, roof and rain gutters. Trim trees regularly to keep branches a minimum of 10 feet from other trees and from your house. Remove any dead branches that hang over your roof. Move any wood piles out of this perimeter. Remove any vegetation that could ignite and spread to decks or patio furniture.

Zone 2 includes the next 70 feet outside Zone 1 to make a total of a 100 feet perimeter. Cut or mow annual grass to a maximum of 4 inches. Create horizontal and vertical spacing between shrubs and trees. Remove all tree branches at least six feet from the ground. Lack of vertical space will allow fire to move from the ground to the brush and then to trees. Remove fallen leaves, needles, bark, cones and small branches that accumulate to a depth greater than 3 inches. When you landscape, consider planting fire-resistant plants and place them strategically to resist the spread of fire to your home. Have multiple garden hoses that are long enough to reach around property.

Homes located up to a mile from wildland fires can be destroyed by flying embers. Here are some things you can do to harden your home to make it more fire resistant.

  • Roof – the most vulnerable part of your home. Wood or shingle roofs are very flammable. Use composition, metal or tile. Block any spaces between decking and covering to prevent embers from catching fire.
  • Vents - create openings for flying embers. Cover them with 1/8” to 1/4” metal mesh. Don’t use fiberglass or plastic because they can melt and burn.
  • Eaves and Soffits - should be protected with non-combustible materials.
  • Windows - can break from wildfire heat before the house catches fire. This allows embers to get into and ignite fires inside. Install dual-paned windows with one pane of tempered glass to reduce the chance of breaking during a fire.
  • Walls - Wooden products on the outside of houses as siding materials are combustible and not recommended for fire-prone areas. Use ignition resistant building materials like stucco or other approved materials. Extend them from the foundation to the roof.
  • Decks - should be made of ignition resistant materials. Keep combustible materials removed from beneath your deck. Use the same materials for patio coverings also.
  • Rain Gutters - should be screened or have gutter guards installed to prevent gutters from accumulating plant debris. Keep them clean of dried leaves and pine needles.
  • Garage - Have a fire extinguisher and fire emergency tools available. Install weather stripping around and under door to block embers.


Billie Nicholson, Editor
July 2014

Fruit & Veggie Pesticide Residue Test Results




Are you growing your own vegetables and fruit or do you need to purchase them from grocery stores? The U. S. Department of Agriculture tests produce every year. Do you know that 65% of produce samples in recent tests contained pesticide residue?

After analyzing the data from USDA and FDA tests, the Environmental Working Group has produced a Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ containing test results from 48 popular fruits and vegetables. This report classifies those with the most pesticides as the “Dirty Dozen PLUS™”. The most contaminated fruits are Peaches, Apples, Nectarines, Strawberries and Grapes.The vegetables include Sweet Bell Peppers, Hot Peppers, Spinach, Cucumbers, Cherry Tomatoes, Snap Peas, Potatoes, Celery and Kale/Collard Greens.

Of note, all the nectarines and 99% of the apples tested positive for at least one form of pesticide; and a single sample of grapes tested positive for fifteen pesticides. The average potato sample tested more positive for pesticides by weight than any other food. If these are favorites on your list, consider buying organically grown. Kale/Collard Greens and Hot Peppers tested positive for pesticides that are toxic to the human nervous system.

The report also includes a list of produce with the least pesticide concentration, they are referred to as the “Clean Fifteen™”. The least contaminated fruit are Avocados, Pineapples, Mangoes, Kiwi, Papayas, Watermelon, Grapefruit and Cantaloupe. The veggies include Onions, Cauliflower, Asparagus, Sweet Peas, Cabbage, Eggplant and Sweet Potatoes. Avocados were the cleanest and over 80% of pineapples, kiwi, papayas and mango had no pesticide residue.

Use this report to shop smarter as you enjoy healthy fruit and vegetables in your diet. Remember to peel or wash them well before eating.

The Cloudy Day Cube Stove

An Inexpensive Back Up For Your Sun OvenIMG_8271

We are often asked for suggestions about preparedness cooking on overcast days and would like to introduce you to the Cloudy Day Cube Stove, a simple, low-cost-solution. The Cloudy Day Cube Stove can cook your food with a wide variety of different fuels and weighs less than one pound.

Sun Ovens International has made a bulk purchase of the last of the American made Cube Stoves.  They are now available at a reduced cost as a backup for your SUN OVEN®.

On days when rain or overcast weather hide the sun, the Cloudy Day Cube Stove is a great solution. The stove is designed for quick, convenient setup and use, and in addition to preparedness cooking, is ideal for camping or hiking. It has been engineered to maximize burning an assortment of different fuels including twigs sticks or wood, charcoal briquettes, Sterno cans, alcohol, solid fuel tablets or QuickStove Fuel Disks.

The Cloudy Day Cube Stove is made of durable aluminized steel. It can be used in 7 different positions to accommodate different needs, such as cooking fast or slow, or cooking in a large pot or small cup.

A Cloudy Day Cube Stove can be used in conjunction with your SUN OVEN®.  A meal can be started on the Cube Stove and when it is half way through cooking, put into your SUN OVEN® to complete the cooking process as it would in a Wonder Box or retained heat cooker.

For a limited time, while supplies last, you can purchase a Cloudy Day Cube Stove Kit with two QuickStove Fuel Disks for less than $30.

To learn more:Cube Stove


Recovering from a Flood

floodFloods are among the most frequent and costly natural disasters.

Conditions that cause floods include heavy or steady rain for several hours or days that saturates the ground. Flash floods occur suddenly due to rapidly rising water along a stream or low-lying area.

Many times flooding occurs when you least expect it. This is the kind of emergency where your bug-out-bag should be

packed with a minimum of 72 hours of supplies and ready to put in your car for evacuation. Make sure you pack some cleanup clothes, hat, sturdy shoes and your camera to document damage when you return.

Listen to your area radio and television stations and a NOAA Radio for possible evacuation warnings. When a warning for your area is issued, go to higher ground and stay there. It’s a good idea to plan this route ahead of time. If you come upon a flooded road while you are traveling, turn around and go another way. Traveling at night, it is hard to recognize where the road is or isn’t. In a recent flood in Pensacola, we had a road wash away leaving a 25-ft. drop!

Return home only after officials have declared the area safe. Before entering your home check for downed power lines, damaged gas lines, foundation cracks or other structural damage. As you enter, check ceilings for sagging or other conditions that might lead to a collapse. If you smell or hear hissing gas, leave immediately and telephone the fire department. Don’t take children into hazardous areas.

The first thing to do is contact your insurance agent to file a claim. Make sure you have the name of your insurance company, your policy number and a telephone or email address where you can be reached at all times. An adjuster should get back to you within a few days.     Meanwhile, take photographs of any floodwater in your home and begin the process of saving personal property.

Make a list of damaged or lost items. These can be added to your home inventory, which already contains the purchase date and value. Take photographs of any items that need to be discarded. Do not turn on electricity until an electrician has deemed your property safe. Mold is the enemy. Remove all wet items immediately. During cleanup, you should wear protective clothing, including rubber gloves and boots.

If you have a basement full or nearly full of water, pump out 2 or 3 feet of water each day. If you drain it too quickly, the pressure outside the walls will be greater than the pressure inside the walls, resulting in cracks or collapse.

For general cleanup, follow a three-step process.

  1. Remove mud – shovel out as much as possible, then use a garden hose to wash away mud on hard surfaces. This should include metal heating ducts. Remember to disconnect the furnace first. Discard any porous materials since they are contaminated.
  2. Clean – scrub surfaces with hot water and a heavy-duty detergent. Clean from the bottom to the top.
  3. Disinfect – Use a solution of ¼ cup chlorine bleach per gallon of water or a product that is labeled as a disinfectant to kill germs. Don’t mix cleaning products as some combinations give off toxic fumes. Your house should be thoroughly cleaned and dry before you move back in.

Flood soaked dry-wall must be removed. Plaster and paneling can perhaps be saved if thoroughly dried. Air should be circulated in the wall cavities to dry studs and sills. What about insulation? Styrofoam can be hosed off; fiberglass bats should be thrown out if muddy, but can be reused if thoroughly dried. Loose or blown-in cellulose or fiberglass must be replaced.
Mold will grow in only a couple of days if the temperature and humidity are high. Bedding, rugs and clothing should be taken outside to dry as soon as possible. Open your windows and use fans to ventilate the house with outdoor air or use an air conditioner or dehumidifier. Mold can be removed from hard surfaces but not from porous surfaces like paper, drywall and carpet padding. These items must be removed and discarded. Wear a two-strap (n-95 rated or better) protective mask to prevent breathing mold spores.

To remove mold, first vacuum or brush off items outdoors to prevent spreading spores inside. Vacuum with a HEPA filtered vacuum to remove loose mold and spores. Then scrub using a stiff brush with a non-ammonia detergent. Structural wood may need to be sanded to remove all the mold growth. Then disinfect with a bleach solution diluted 1 cup per gallon of water. The surface must remain wet for 15 minutes to successfully disinfect. Then rinse with clean water and rapidly dry the surfaces. Provide adequate ventilation during the disinfecting and wear rubber gloves.

Discard any carpet or rugs if they were wet or damp for more than a couple of days. If sewage-contaminated water covered your carpets, discard them for health reasons. To clean carpets, drape them outdoors and wash down with a hose. Use a disinfecting carpet cleaner on soiled spots. Dry carpets and floors thoroughly before putting them back in place.

If you have hardwood floors, remove a board every few feet to reduce buckling. Clean and dry the wood before trying to repair it. If you have wooden subflooring, the floor covering must be removed to allow air to dry the subflooring thoroughly. This may take months.

Wooden furniture worth saving should be dried indoors to prevent warping by the sun. It can be wiped down with turpentine to remove white spots that may develop on damp wood. Wipe dry and polish with wax or furniture polish. Throw away water soaked mattresses and pillows. Wash bedding in a bleach solution as recommended on the label. Treat clothing and other washable textiles with stain removal products before washing.

Flooding contaminates or damages everything it touches. For more details on cleaning and what to save or discard, see Flood Recovery and Cleanup.

Billie Nicholson, Editor
June 2014

Rotating Stored Water

rotating stored water

There is a limit to how much water we can store. In addition to the small containers in our bug-out bags and car, we also set up a 55 gallon drum. At 8.3 lb. per gallon that 457 lb. container will be in place until it’s emptied. We recently rotated a water container that was set up seven years ago. When opened the water tasted sweet with a hint of chlorine, and was clear and sediment free. To empty the drum, we created a syphon by pulling a vacuum on a hose with our Shop Vac to start the flow.  Once emptied, we washed the 55 gal. drum, then placed it on untreated wooden 2x4s to keep any chemicals in the cement floor from

rotating stored water

leaching through the food-grade plastic container. Keep in mind that bleach now comes in two strengths, 5% and 8% sodium hypochlorite. We have 8%, so we added 12 oz. into the drum before filling it with water. Once filled to the top, we sealed and labeled the container “water” and included the date. To further protect the barrel, we placed a piece of finished wood on top to serve as a flat surface for storage.

rotating stored water

photos: RustyBuggy.com

Billie Nicholson, Editor
June 2014

Chilling Food Without Electricity

Reproduced from Practical Action

Practical Action is an international non-governmental organization (NGO) that uses technology to challenge poverty in developing countries. Registered in the United Kingdom, they find out what people are doing and help them to do it better. Through technology they enable poor communities to build on their skills and knowledge to produce sustainable and practical solutions – transforming their lives forever and protecting the world around them. Practical Action works directly in more than 45 developing countries across the world. They have an extensive library of simple techniques to solve survival problems.  

Zeer PotThe Zeer Pot Fridge -How a clay pot refrigerator can help beat hunger

In hot climates, food doesn’t stay fresh for long. Tomatoes go off in just two days. After four days carrots and okra are rotten. With no means of preserving their crops, poverty stricken families have been battling hunger and even famine.

One ingenious solution is the zeer pot. Using this simple technology, the same vegetable can last for up to 20 days. This all natural refrigerator offers families, who already succeed in food production, their right to food preservation and really can help to improve their everyday lives; for now and for the future.

Zeer Pot – Simple technology that brings fresh hope

The zeer pot is a simple fridge made of local materials. It consists of one earthenware pot set inside another, with a layer of wet sand in between (about 2 inches). As the moisture evaporates it cools the inner pot, keeping up to 12kg (~26 lbs.) of fruit and vegetables fresher for longer. Wet down twice daily. The pots should be covered with a ceramic lid or wet cloth. They should be kept in a well ventilated area but out of direct sunlight. The pots work best when placed on a metal frame for better air circulation. The average temperature drops 23.5 º F. below the outside temperature. Drier climates work best. They are often called the “desert refrigerator.”

Use a Zeer Pot to store fruits and vegetables

Deterioration of fruits and vegetables during storage depends largely on temperature. One way to slow down this change and so increase the length of time fruits and vegetables can be stored, is by lowering the temperature to an appropriate level. It must be remembered that if the temperature is too low the produce will be damaged and also that as soon as the produce leaves the cold store, deterioration starts again and often at a faster rate.

The ceramic refrigerator has proved very successful and it has been tested with a number of different vegetables. For example tests have shown that these foods can be kept fresh for the following amount of time:

Tomatoes – 3 weeks          Okra – 2 weeks          Rocket – 5 days        Carrots – 20 days        Meat – 14 days

In a short or long term interruption of electricity in the US, this could make a difference in preventing food spoilage as well as providing some variety in one’s diet. They are currently being used successfully in Sudan, Gambia and Nigeria, Africa. Consider adding this technique to your knowledge base.

Zeer pot

Reproduced with Permission

Additional References:

The Zeer pot emergency refrigerator – http://4dtraveler.net/2012/05/11/the-zeer-pot-emergency-refrigerator/

Gambian farmers benefit from Sudanese fridge -


 June 2014




A Fun Barbecue is a Safe Barbecue

BarbecueSummer time is grilling time. Food cooked on the grill has a totally different taste from indoor cooking. With more people cooking on their grills than ever before, the HPBA (Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association) offers the following tips for grilling safety. Remember that any time you work with fire, there is a chance of getting burned, so take precautions.

  • When using a new grill, be sure to read the owner’s manual. If you assembled the grill yourself, you know where it is.
  • Grills are for outdoor use. If used inside, the carbon monoxide accumulating from combustion can be fatal.
  • Grills should be placed well away from the home, deck railings or overhanging branches.
  • Use long handled utensils to avoid burns and spatters.
  • Take care with clothing. Don’t wear dangly fabric on sleeves or aprons that can catch fire.
  • Keep the fire under control. If you must douse flames with a light spritz of water, remove the food from the grill first.
  • Place a splatter mat beneath your grill to protect your patio or deck from dripping grease.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grilling area.
  • Clean your grill before use by brushing off the charred grease AND THEN wipe the grill down with a wad of wet paper towels. This step is critical to remove any bristles that may fall out of the grill brush. Grill bristles unintentionally ingested will result in a visit to the Emergency Room. The Center for Disease Control reports several cases each year of patients admitted to hospitals with complaints ranging from bristles in the tongue or throat to penetrations of the small intestine as a result of eating food with bristles embedded.

Graphic: RustyBuggy.com

Billie Nicholson, Editor
June 2014

Add a Survival Net to Your Bug-Out Bag

Joe Nobody discussed the uses of the survival net during the Survival Summit. You can use it to build 10 life-saving items in a pinch. The survival net is lightweight, has a 1” grid weave, and is available at military surplus stores. The standard issue net is 6-8 feet wide by 12 feet long. It comes complete with “S” hooks, MOLLE pouch and paracord. It should cost less than $30. The “S” hooks should be rated at 200 pounds.

Survival Net Uses Include:

  • Hammock – sling it between two trees; take some small twigs and cut some grooves in them and weave them into each end of the hammock to create a sleeping platform and keep it from bunching up on the ends. Practice doing this. Don’t under-estimate the time it will take to get this set up. String up a poncho or plastic bag above to keep moisture off. A hammock will provide better thermal comfort than sleeping on the cold or wet ground. It is much quicker to break camp with a hammock than a tent. It is lighter and takes up less space in your pack.
  • Ghillie suit or camouflage cloak – weave plant branches and leaves into the opens. It breathes better than commercial ones. Make it mid-calf length to allow for more mobility and minimize snagging. Camouflage is not always wooded; use this in different environments. Take whatever is common and secure it to the net. It is always best to avoid confrontation. Use this to get through an area without being detected.
  • Litter – it can be used as a stretcher to carry someone. Use thumb sized limbs for support. Weave the limbs along both edges and at the end. It is easier to drag an injured companion. The greener the wood the more flexible it is.
  • Fishing net -
    • Create a two man drag; one on either side of the creek. Add some rocks on one edge to serve as resistance so it sinks to the bottom.
    • Add rocks on the corners and secure with hooks. Fling it like a Frisbee on top of the fish. rocks will sink and trap the fish in the middle of the net. Weave paracord around the edge to be able to retrieve it with ease. You do need to throw where the fish are. Find them next to structures they might use for hiding places.
    • Make a fish pen by using stakes to create a fence with the net. Attach paracord or other rope to close it.
    • Hiding place – local foliage can be woven into or stacked against the net. Hang one side and let one side fall to the ground and fill in with greens and twigs.
    • Blanket, jacket or raincoat – strips of bark or shaved wood can be woven in for insulation. Plastic bags can be secured to the mesh to form a raincoat or poncho. Old newspapers can be woven in for insulation as well as pine needles, leaves, foliage and even vines. Rags and scraps of clothing can be woven into the net to create a barrier. Heat small rocks or stones in a campfire and secure them in the net for a large scale warmer.
    • Climbing tool – roll up net to use for short ascents. Twist it into a rope. The girth of the twisted net provides sufficient hand hold. Gear ties can be woven into the net for hand/footholds. This works for descending also. Heavy gear can be raised or lowered in a bundle.
    • Cargo Bag - the net can handle more weight than you can carry.
    • Snare - use it to catch small game with some bait and wire.
    • Door Security - securing the net with small hooks around a door frame can make any threshold extremely difficult to breech. This also works for windows. It is hard to cut through. Add something that jingles as a warning.

Reproduced with Permission

Additional Articles in this month’s issue:

Billie Nicholson, Editor
May 2014

Creating a Sustainable Garden

By Billie Nicholson as Presented by Cindy Conner

SoilWhat is Soil?

Wearing her hand-made vest of many colors, Cindy Conner of Ashland, VA, talked about the things gardeners need to consider to make a garden that will sustain itself. Soil is much more than dirt. It consists of inorganic materials from rocks; organic material from dead and decayed plant life; biological systems – consisting of bacteria, fungi, algae, protozoa and other microscopic animals like round worms and earthworms; and air and water occupying the spaces between the soil components. Soil is a world of its own, whose components work together to support plants not just for anchorage, but also to provide nutrients enabling plants to grow, conduct photosynthesis and create food for us to eat and oxygen for us to breathe. In order for plants to continue to grow successfully, the soil they grow in needs to be continually nourished as well.

“Part of the cycle of life many try to ignore is microorganisms.  Without them, we would cease to exist.  Microbes are necessary for our food to be transformed into nutrients that our body can use.  If things are not working well in your gut, your body becomes unbalanced, causing havoc throughout. … In my studies of nutrition and of the soil, I’ve come to realize that the same thing going on in our gut with the microbes, is going on in the soil.  When the right balance of microorganisms is present, plants thrive.  Healthy soil produces healthy plants, which feed healthy people.  We are what we eat.  We are a people of the earth.  When we get our nutrients from REAL food, they come with the enzymes and co-nutrients, in proper proportion, necessary for assimilation in our bodies.” HomePlaceEarth

Soil Needs Food, too

To keep our gardens healthy and productive, we need to feed the soil. This does not mean, just add chemical fertilizers. We need to replenish the compost – organic materials in the soil. Making your own compost pile consisting of raw food scraps, non-edible plant parts, like older outside leaves on cabbage, tea and coffee grounds, egg shells and animal manure will replenish nourishing material. Another way to help this is to grow cover crops in part of your garden beds as a crop rotation. Cover crops are grown specifically to feed the soil. Some of these may also provide food for people as well, if you allow the plants to grow to maturity making fruit or seeds. Not all areas in the world produce gardens year-round. In these areas cover crops are grown during the winter. According to  GROW BIOINTENSIVE® researchers, 60% of your garden space should be in cover crops/compost all the time.

How does this work? The cover plants will be grown, cutdown and left or turned under the soil to decompose in place as the roots and green matter breakdown returning the nutrients to be used again by other plants. You can even use the old plants you have grown in other parts of your garden. When plants like lettuce go to flower, they are no longer edible. Just pull those plants and toss them into the composting bed. Why have a separate place requiring extra time and energy to move? Just make it in an existing garden bed. This was an “AHA” moment for me.

What can you plant and when?  Cindy has a handout with suggested plants for fall, spring  and summer cover plantings. These cover crops do not require the bed to be fallow for an entire year. Some crops like buckwheat work when you need something to fill a bed for about a month between main crops. Some plants, like cereal rye can be cut and then transplanted into about two weeks later. The plant material can be moved or left as mulch to keep down weeds and hold moisture.

     An important note: If you use herbicides on your lawn, do not add these clippings to your composting beds. The herbicides of today do not decompose during the composting process. These herbicides, designed to kill broad leaf plants producing weed free lawns, can damage your garden plants. Even manure from an animal fed on herbicide treated hay will still contain active herbicides.

Additional Articles in this month’s issue:

Billie Nicholson, Editor
May 2014