An Adventure with Celery, Peppers and Onions

Robert Nicholson

A few weeks ago I was dabbling around the kitchen close to dinnertime. I noticed that our garden had produced an abundance of fresh vegetables that were begging to be used. Out of the refrigerator came lots of celery, green peppers and onions (CPO). These chopped vegetables mixed with ground beef, spices and fresh breadcrumbs, made a tasty meat loaf that everyone enjoyed.

In my chopping fervor, I created lots of extra chopped CPO. In the past when we had extra salsa, pesto, or tomato paste, the extra was frozen for later use. Could CPO be frozen in the same way?  Let’s experiment.

I first par-cooked the CPO in a skillet with a small bit of olive oil. When the CPO was cool I brought out a muffin pan, covered it with a sheet of plastic wrap, and depressed the muffin area with my hand. I then placed a lump of par-cooked CPO in each spot. A second sheet of plastic wrap was placed on top and the muffin pan was placed in the freezer. The plastic wrapped, frozen CPO was divided into individual sections and stored in a zip bag. The bag was marked with the contents and a reference date.

One morning while fixing breakfast I retrieved one of my frozen CPO packets, unwrapped it and popped it into a moderately warm skillet. Within just a few minutes, with the addition of eggs and cheese, a delicious omelet was ready for our family.

We have now added CPO to the list of basic portion control ingredients that we store in our freezer for later use. The next experiment will be to see how long it stores and remains edible. I’ll let you know.


Billie Nicholson, editor
May 2015

Disaster Plans for Pets

Humane Society

disaster plan for petsWhen preparing for an emergency situation, don’t forget to make plans for any family pets. Just like any other family member, pets are your responsibility, too. Here are some ideas to help you create your disaster plan to care for their basic needs. 

  1. Don’t wait until the last minute, start your plan now. Make sure your pet is wearing a collar and identification tag that is up to date and visible at all times. Getting a micro chip inserted will greatly increase your chance of being reunited should your pet get lost. If your pet is adopted from a shelter or rescue organization, make sure the registration has been transferred to you. Add your cell phone number to the tag as well.
  1. Put together a disaster kit to include:
      Food and water for at least 5 days, bowl, and a manual can opener if you are packing canned pet food. Keep an extra gallon of water on hand to use if your pet has been exposed to chemicals or flood waters and needs to be rinsed.
      Medications and medical records stored in a waterproof container and a pet first-aid kit and book.
      Cat litter box, litter, scoop and garbage bags to collect all your pet’s waste.
      Sturdy leashes, harnesses and carriers to transport pets safely and to avoid run-aways.
      Current photos of you with your pets and a written description to help others identify them.
      Written information about your pet’s feeding schedule, medical conditions and behavior issues along with the name and contact information for your veterinarian in case you have to board or put them in foster care.
      Grooming items, newspapers or paper towels for clean ups.
  2. Find a safe place to stay. Be sure to check your local shelters and select ones that allow for pets. This includes checking with hotels and motels that might be along your evacuation route.
  3. Plan for your pets in case you’re not home or can’t get there by asking a trusted neighbor or nearby family member or friend to take your pets and meet you at a specified location.
  4. If you must wait out a storm at home, decide on a safe area of your home where you can all stay together. Pet-proof the area. Bring your pet inside as soon as local authorities announce trouble is coming. Put all your emergency supplies in your safe-room. Stay inside until the “all clear” sign.
  5. Following an emergency event don’t allow your pets to roam loose. They can get disoriented, lost or hurt in some situations.
  6. Be aware of the dangers high temperatures can cause for your pets. Heatstroke can be fatal. Apply cold towels to pet’s head, neck and chest; let her lick ice cubes and go to the vet immediately.

Billie Nicholson, editor
May 2015

Creating a Sustainable Farm

At the edge of a sparsely developed neighborhood in Milton, Florida, you’ll find Ray and Wanda Davis’ “Clear Creek Farm.” When they decided to retire from their original careers, they thought it would be fun to try their hand at farming as a way to maintain activity and to grow their own food. Their 30 acre property, just west of a Naval Aviation Training base and backing up to a land preserve, has hills, flood plains, hardwood and pine forest areas and is bisected by Clear Creek as it winds its way to the Blackwater River.
From the property description, you can imagine, there are lots of ecosystems, but level fertile ground is missing. Ray and Wanda accepted these challenges to create their version of a Sustainable Farm. Here are some of the techniques they use.
One of the first problems to be addressed was controlling run-off and erosion. They created a series of terraces and concrete drainage streams, including a pool. Square foot garden beds and narrow long beds were built on the terraces.  Trees cut down on the farm as they cleared areas were milled into lumber that they use to make the long beds. Tree height determined the bed length.

Clear Creek Farm1

To extend the growing season and protect some delicate plants during the winter months, they have built high tunnel (hoop houses). Ray also has some hydroponic lettuce beds where he grows individual lettuce plants in a nutrient rich liquid supported by styrofoam.
All plant material that is left after harvesting is tossed into compost bins built from throw away pallets lined with hardware cloth and tied together with zip-ties. They use straw and shredded paper as the carbon component and toss in a shovel full of manure to keep it “hot.”

Solar panels installed on the farm buildings generate electricity for farm use as well. As a result of their hard work, farm tours, plant sales and consultations provide additional income. Now that’s sustainable.

Sustainable Farm


Billie Nicholson, editor
May 2015

Tips to Prepare for Blackouts!

The National Preparedness Community

Blackout tipsWhat is a Power Grid?

The power grid consists of a set of large power plants connected together by wires. It works well as a power-distribution system because it allows for energy sharing. Interestingly, there is no storage in the system. As power is demanded by consumers, that same amount is generated and distributed. This works great until there is a failure in part of the system that other parts can’t fill in.  Then they fail and a domino effect leaves a large area in the dark.

Follow these tips to be prepared for a blackout:

  • Practice energy conservation measures to reduce electricity usage, acquire flashlights and batteries, solar lights, candles or oil lamps for lighting & alternative cooking devices (like a Sun Oven®.)
  • Always have a large cooler and a supply of ice on hand. Fill plastic containers with water and store them frozen. Leave space for expansion. These can be used to keep food chilled and then as drinking water when they have thawed.
  • Store additional containers of water for long term use. One gallon per person per day is recommended.
  • Create a general emergency preparedness kit with a first-aid kit, personal hygiene items, flashlights, copies of important documents, emergency contact telephone numbers, etc. Include extra medicines.
  • Keep your car gas tank at least half full at all times.
  • Keep a key to your house with you if you regularly enter from your garage, because the electric door opener will not work.
  • Keep any generator activity well ventilated to avoid CO poisoning.

Billie Nicholson, editor
May 2015



Enjoy the Luxury of a Warm Shower

The SOLAR SHOWER is a great addition to emergency preparedness supplies during times when Solar Showerpower or water access is limited. Fill it with water and hang it in the sun for about three hours. You’ll have 5 gallons of warm water using the sun’s energy. When placed outdoors in the direct sun, the matt black container absorbs the sun’s light energy and converts it into heat. Learn how to use it before you need it.

Camping fever will soon be hitting every neighborhood. Do you like to “rough it” and live in the wild, miles from civilization? After a couple of days do you yearn for the luxury of a warm shower to take off the grime? Now you can have both, the solitude and a warm shower. The SOLAR SHOWER  is perfect for all your washing needs.

Constructed of durable PVC, with an easy filling cap and a sturdy carrying/hanging handle, it is perfect for all your washing needs. The handy on/off valve is connected to a shower-head for easy access allowing you to control how much or how little water you use.Once heated, the water in the SOLAR SHOWER will stay warm for another three hours after the sun goes down.

Solar Shower


  • Capacity:              5 gallons
  • Dimensions:         20  x 16   inches
  • Weight:                 14 ounces (empty)


                               Learn More

Benefits of Chia Seeds

More than a Chia Pet

Chia Seeds

Photo Rusty Buggy Enterprises

Do you remember the television ads for ceramic characters covered in green leaves? Sold only during the holidays, these seed sprouting kits must be the gift for the person that has everything. Chia seeds, surprisingly, are one of the healthiest foods on earth and are considered an amazing superfood.

Chia seeds come from a member of the mint family, Salvia hispanica L. They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein, calcium, antioxidants and are one of the richest known sources of dietary fiber. They can be consumed whole or ground and mixed with other grains into bread or added to smoothies for increased creaminess. Gluten free, chia can be part of a diet for those sensitive to gluten containing grains, like wheat. When you mix chia with water a gel is created. (Wet chia seeds remind me of tadpole eggs.) This works well as an alternative to eggs in baked goods.1 Mix 3 Tbs. warm water with 1 Tbs. ground chia seeds. Let stand 5-10 minutes.2

Chia – an ancient grain

Chia was one of the most important crops for the ancient Aztec and Mayan cultures long ago. They continue to be a food staple for the Tarahumara Indians, a Mexican tribe of super athletes, living deep in Mexico’s remote Copper Canyon.  Known as “the running people” and the subject of the book Born to Run, they run 50 to 100 miles at a time just for the fun of it. Chia seeds and pinole (roasted corn cake) are the two staples of their diet.3 The Indians prize chia seeds for their ability to provide sustainable energy. One ounce (28 grams) or 2 Tbs. of chia seeds contains:4

  • Fiber: 11 grams
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Fat: 9 grams (5 of these are omega-3s)
  • Calcium: 18% of the RDA (recommended daily allowance)
  • Manganese: 30% of RDA
  • Magnesium: 30% of RDA
  • Phosphorus: 27% of RDA

Easy to incorporate into your diet, they can be added to anything, don’t need to be ground, they can be eaten raw, soaked in juice, added to porridges and puddings, or into baked goods. Chia seeds added to any recipe will dramatically boost the nutritional value. These seeds keep on the shelf for up to two years. The high quantity of healthy antioxidants act like a natural preservative, preventing them from going rancid. Chia seeds should be in every bug-out bag. Try it you’ll like it.







Recognizing the Symptoms of a Stroke


American Heart Association

A stroke occurs when oxygen and vital nutrients carried in the blood is cut off from the brain. According to the American Stroke Association, nearly 700,000 Americans suffer strokes each year. Nearly 25% of those victims die. There are two reasons – in one, called an ischemic stroke, a blood vessel in the neck or brain is blocked by plaque or a blood clot. This makes up over 80% of strokes. The second reason known as a hemorrhagic stroke involves a blood vessel bursting or leaking. 1
A stroke is a serious medical emergency. The victim has only 2-6 hours to stop permanent brain damage. Getting to a hospital as quickly as possible is critical.2 Don’t take time to drive there. Call 911 immediately. AN EMT can begin administering aid on the way to hospital. if you recognize any of these symptoms. For each minute the blood flow to the brain is blocked, 1.9 million neurons are lost.3 This could affect a persons speech, mobility and memory.

  1. Sudden Confusion or difficulty speaking or understanding – ask the victim to repeat the following: “You can’t teach and old dog new tricks.” Slurred words, using the wrong words or an inability to speak are symptoms of a stroke.
  2. Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body – often an affected limb on the opposite side of the body from where the stroke occurred will go numb, feel weak or be unable to move. Stretch out both arms with palms up for 10 seconds. If one arm drifts down, that indicates muscle weakness. Also with eyes open, lift one leg at a time.2
  3. Sudden trouble seeing with one or both eyes – blurred vision of loss of vision in one eye or double vision are not readily recognized as a stroke symptom.
  4. Sudden trouble walking, loss of balance, or dizziness – don’t confuse these symptoms with inebriation or the flu.
  5. Sudden severe headache with no known cause – women are more likely to have a headache with stroke than men. Don’t hesitate to ask for an MRI in the emergency room.
  6. Droopy face – if one side of the face appears to be sagging or doesn’t move, ask the victim to smile, stick out his/her tongue or show teeth. The weakness will be obvious.

Strokes are the number 4 cause of death in the U.S. In addition, they are a leading cause of severe long term disability. Don’t hesitate to get help immediately and don’t let the stroke victim over-rule a decision to call 911. The American Stroke Association has shown that administering a clot-busting drug within three hours of the first symptoms, reduces long-term disability for nearly 90% of all cases.4



1. It’s a Disaster … What to do about Strokes, pg. 207




 Billie Nicholson, editor
April 2015


Add Dental Floss to Emergency Supplies

Dental Floss

Photo Rusty Buggy Enterprises

More Uses for Dental Floss

If you are a regular dental floss user for oral hygiene, you carry a container with you every day. In addition to cleaning between your teeth, there are other reasons to add it to your emergency supplies. There are uses for both the waxed and unwaxed versions. These include:

  • Use like twine to secure bags.
  • Use it as fishing line. It’s the equivalent of 20 pound test.
  • Sewing to repair clothing or tarps.
  • Use some to make a bow drill to start a fire and use waxed floss to bind wood kindling. When lit, it will burn like a candle wick.
  • Use un-waxed floss to tie food to a stick to cook over an open fire
  • Works to secure your food out of animal reach.
  • Tie tarp into a tree to make a shelter.
  • Braid several strands together for replacement shoe laces.
  • Use as a suture to close wounds.
  • Make a trip line for an early warning  of visitors.
  • Can be used as a clothes line to hang wet clothes to dry.
  • Secure gear to outside of carry pack.
  • Tie a piece of floss through the frame of your glasses to replace a lost screw.
  • Secure pants and sleeves against cold and rainy weather; or to keep out chiggers and ticks.
  • Save the empty container to store small items


Billie Nicholson, editor
April 2015


Raised Bed Gardening

Robert and Billie Nicholson

Getting to the Root of the Problem

We have been enjoying raised bed gardening for years and have had great success growing a wide variety of healthy, delicious and cost effective fresh vegetables. We use artificial soil as described below. This works great, so great that everything wants to be in the soil, including roots from other nearby trees, shrubs, etc. Our solution was to build a raised square foot garden so that nearby roots are not aware of our rich soil. Other advantages include not stooping to tend the plants and those with disabilities can sit in a wheelchair to continue the pleasures of gardening. Also when building the raised portion of your growing bed you can adjust the length of the legs to accommodate the slope of your property. We can build a few beds at our lake house and not have our veggies tumbling into the lake.

Our raised garden bed table was made from pressure treated lumber and placed on cement blocks. To keep the chemicals used to preserve the wood frame isolated from our soil we installed a plastic barrier, plastic composite decking and ground cloth before placing our plastic composite garden kit (4’x8’) on top. We secured the garden kit to the table with metal braces and 3 ½ inch #10 stainless steel screws.  The finishing touch was to place strips of ground cloth at right angles inside the garden bed to prevent soil from washing through the cracks as the unit ages.

Raised Bed Gardening

Raised Bed Gardening

For The Growing Medium:
We buy our growing medium from the local farm store and get a better price.
1/3 – (4 cu foot bail) – Peat Moss
1/3 – (4 cu foot bag) – Vermiculite
1/3 blend of the following:
– Composted cow manure
– Composted chicken manure
– Composted mushroom


Start by opening the peat moss and break it up into small pieces in the bed. Add vermiculite and mix well. Open other bags and mix well working out lumps. Mix all growing medium dry. When finished mixing, water in the growing medium well (about one hour), test bed by checking bottom for dampness. If the bottom is dry, water until damp. This soil mixture has its good & bad issues. Good: Very rich mixture & great 1st year yields with no weed seeds. Bad: Very rich mixture so that every root in the area wants to invade the rich soil.

This rich bed is so delicious that garden worms will come to live. If you see worms in the yard pick them up and place into your new raised bed garden to speed up the worming process. We buy garden worms every 5 years or so. This year we ordered 1000 worms from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. They come with homecoming instructions. Go to

NEVER step into your raised bed, as this will compact the soil and impede the great things to come. Reach in from either side to do your gardening work.

You are now ready to plant. Remember that this method of growing will yield bigger plants than you are used to seeing, so be careful to not plant your new seedlings too close together. More information is found at

Raised Bed Gardening

Photos Rusty Buggy Enterprises, Inc.

Billie Nicholson, editor
April 2015

Safe Rooms for Tornado Survival

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Tornadoes – a Destructive Force of Nature

Safe Rooms

Photo FEMA public domain

Tornadoes and hurricanes are among the most destructive forces of nature. Unfortunately, these types of wind storms continue to cause injury and death to people who are unable to safely evacuate or find shelter from these events.

The National Weather Service did not start keeping organized records of tornadoes in the United States until 1950. Since then, the deadliest year for tornadoes was 2011, which claimed 553 lives. The single deadliest tornado to date was in Joplin, MO, on May 22, 2011, with 161 fatalities.

Compared with hurricanes and earthquakes, single tornado events typically affect smaller geographical areas but occur more often and cause more deaths. From 1950 through 2011, tornadoes caused about 5,600 fatalities in the United States, more than hurricanes and earthquakes combined over the same time period (NIST 2014).

Tornado Resistant Building Codes

FEMA has long supported the development of hazard-resistant codes and standards by assessing how structures respond in a disaster. Assessment conclusions and recommendations are applied through active participation in the process of creating and developing building codes and standards, including the Standard for the Design and Construction of Storm Shelters, known as ICC 500.

Safe house


The most cost-effective way to design and construct a safe room is to include it in a new building. The cost of retrofitting an existing building (or portion thereof) is higher due to the additional design and construction constraints.

In new construction, the safe room is often built in the basement. The likelihood of wind-borne debris entering the basement is lower than for above-ground spaces; however, a basement safe room should still be designed to resist the extreme wind pressures that an above-ground safe room would need to resist. If you plan to add a basement safe room as a retrofitting project, keep the following in mind:

  • You must be able to clear out an area of the basement large enough for the safe room.
  • Unless the exterior basement walls contain adequate reinforcement as shown on the design drawings provided with this publication, these walls cannot be used as safe room walls because they are not reinforced to resist damage from wind-borne debris and extreme winds uplifting the home’s floor structure above.
  • Exterior basement walls that are used as safe room walls must not contain windows, doors, or other openings in the area providing protection unless they are protected with an appropriate protective device or are designed to resist the debris impact and pressure associated with safe room design.
  • The roof of the safe room must be designed to resist the wind pressures and debris impact forces.
  • Just as the walls and roof of a safe room are designed and built to protect against extreme winds and wind-borne debris, so must the safe room door and assembly. Only door assemblies designed and tested to resist debris impacts and wind pressures can provide near-absolute life-safety protection.
  • Some manufacturers produce and install prefabricated safe rooms.


Billie Nicholson, editor
April 2015 



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