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  • Washington Wildfire Burned more than 300 Homes

    The largest recorded wildfire in Washington state history that began on July 14th, 2014 has now scorched about 400 square miles of land. And as of August 4th, 2014 the file was only 90% contained.

    On July 28th, USA today reported, “the fire has destroyed at least 312 homes…and is blamed for the death of a man trying to protect his home. At its peak, it sent a huge plume of smoke drifting east across the United States.”

    In an assessment of the damage released by Yahoo News, Washington Governor Jay Inslee extended the pre-existing burn ban in the eastern part of the state for another week to avoid further damage.

    Governor Inslee acknowledges that even though fire crews have made great progress in containing the fire, “weather conditions are still a concern” that may extend the fire’s life. So the Washington wildfire could continue to blaze on.

    On Tuesday, July 29th fire managers released a map showing the fire’s growth since July 14th. The map shows that four separate lightning strikes created four burns that merged to create a massive wildfire. Check out the map at USA Today.com.

    1406580494000-Carletonmap

     

    According to fire-fighting officials, massive wildfires like this (and the one currently blazing in eastern Oregon) are becoming the norm. Wildfires are now burning hotter and longer than they were more than a decade ago.

    Since wildfires have been popping up all over the western US this summer, it’s important to learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones during wildfire season. Check out these Ready.gov tips  to help you prepare.

     

    For more info on the Washington Wildfire, check out these articles:

    New Map Shows How Record Washington Wildfire Grew

    Sheriff: 300 Homes Burned in Washington Wildfire

    Longer, Hotter Northwest Fire Seasons are New ‘Normal’

    Bear Cub Burned in Washington Wildfire Flown to California Wildlife Care Center

     

    If you’ve ever lived through a wildfire, what tips would you suggest for protecting your home and staying safe during a wildfire? If you haven’t, what steps are you taking to prepare, just in case?

     

    -Angela

     

    Sources

    http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2014/aug/05/wildfire-burns-homes-near-ellensburg/

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: wildfire, wildfire season

  • Fantastic Plastic: A Million Uses for a Grocery bag

    Any of you with diaper-age children already know the crucial importance of keeping plastic grocery bags on hand at all times. As a dedicated bag toter, I found myself vindicated this week by no less than Backpacker Magazine, whose online slideshow, “Survive With a Plastic Bag,” has got me thinking of other uses for this ubiquitous resource.

    Backpacker’s six tips include some predictable, but still helpful waterproofing ideas, as well as some not-so-predictable ones, like using the plastic bag as a windsock or a whistle. I’m more than convinced I need a handful of these in my hiking pack and emergency kits. But just a little more digging unlocks the further utility of the plastic bag. Here’s just a sampling:

    • Survival Common Sense lists a bunch of different kinds of plastic bags—everything from Ziplocs to garbage can liners—and shows what you can do with them. I like the wallet-sized fire starter, in particular.
    • Outdoor Life’s Survivalist blog has a great little write-up on how to use a standard plastic grocery bag to collect water in the wild. Hint: it doesn’t even require digging a hole!
    • The Master Woodsman (we don’t know who he is, but we like his site) dedicates a whole article to the big, black garbage bag. His super impressive list of uses for the bag includes some shockers. On your own, you might have come up with the idea of making a shelter or lining a sleeping bag with a garbage bag. But would you have known that you can make a mattress, strong cord, or even glue out of one? Yeah, me neither.
    • In possibly the biggest mind-blower, this YouTube clip shows how to boil water in a plastic bag! I’m not going to pretend to understand why the bag doesn’t melt or ignite, but the guy in the video successfully hard-boils an egg in one over a bed of blazing coals. In a plastic bag!

     

    If you’re still not convinced (Really? What does it take, people?), check back on these previous posts to see still more ingenious ways to put plastic bags to use for emergency preparedness.

     

    Have we missed anything? What other emergency or survival uses do you have for these fantastic plastic bags?

    -Stacey

    Photo courtesy of Backpacker Magazine Ben Fullerton

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: skills, Survival, DIY

  • We’ve been posting quite a bit this year about water problems across the country, and most of the issues have been drought related. Need another reason to be extra thrifty with your water? Visit Toledo.

    According to NOAA, Lake Erie is in for its fourth consecutive year of higher-than-average incidence of toxic algal blooms. Blue-green algae may sound picturesque, but the slimy carpeting floating at the surface of infected lakes and seas can kill marine life—and wreak havoc on human bodies, as well. And algae doesn’t just mean a bummer day at the beach; Fox News points out that Lake Erie provides drinking water for much of that region, both in the US and Canada.

    These images from National Geographic show how really, ahem, eerie this phenomenon is around the world.

    Don't Drink the Water: Lake Erie's Toxic Sludge

    Photo Courtesy of National Geographic

    The state governments of Wisconsin and Florida have fact sheets available to clear up some of the misinformation about blue-green algae and help people avoid harm. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s page emphasizes the importance of keeping pets from playing in or consuming “icky-looking and smelly” (their words) water. And Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources strikes at one of the roots of the problem, cautioning residents against over-fertilization, since runoff feeds algae and leads to unnaturally aggressive growth.

    Besides vacationing somewhere other than the southwest shores of the Great Lakes, there are one or two things we can do to minimize our exposure to harmful algae. Check out the facts and tips in these water storage posts.

    Stay safe on the beach this summer, friends, and keep your drinking water clean and slime-free!

     

    --Stacey

     

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: water

  • When You Gotta Go: Sanitation in the Great Outdoors

    “Does a person poop in the woods? Not if they don't have to.”

    So begins a particularly classy Gizmodo article I came across the other day, delicately titled, “How to Poop in the Woods.” For me (and on this point my mountain-man husband and I disagree), Port-a-Potties at a campsite are a deal breaker, and au naturel is not an option. However, I acknowledge (oh-so-reluctantly) the possibility of an emergency scenario that requires me to get comfy with the idea of going in the woods. Which is why I actually read this through to the end.

    Whether you’re an avid outdoorsy type or a diligent prepper, one of the situations that most urgently requires some forethought is bathroom sanitation. Gizmodo’s article—while just slightly on the grody side—gives some great guidelines for attending to the environment while attending to your business. It also offers some downright brainy ideas for how to dispose of waste when the best options (bury it, pack it out) are not available.

    P.S. The comments on Gizmodo’s article have a bit of potty language, but are a treasure trove of useful tips, like how to identify poison oak when looking for a good leaf to wipe with.

    For those like me, for whom even typing the word “poop” is squirm-inducing, there are (thankfully!) plenty of products out there to make all this a little less icky. Browse these search results for some of our favorite emergency sanitation products.

    It’s also a good idea toread up on other good hygiene practices for emergency situations. These Insight articles will get you started:

    Do you have a favorite tip or tool for the call of nature while in the great outdoors?

     

    -Stacey

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: Sanitation

  •  California's Liquid Gold: Drought Time Water Prices

    Not to beat a parched horse, but here’s an angle on the drought in the western US that we hadn’t considered. Turns out the shortage of water in California is making millionaires out of individuals and organizations with extra stores or claims to private sources.

    According to the AP, in an article titled, “In Dry California, Water Fetching Record Prices,” the price of water has increased by ten times in the last five years, reaching past $2000 per acre-foot. The resource is sold at auctions, with large farms and cities among the bidders. One private water storage district in Bakersfield wrangled in $13.5 million in a single transaction!

    One of the most interesting points in the article is the description of water banks—essentially massive, underground water storage facilities where surplus is banked in years of plenty. Kind of makes my rain barrel look a little paltry!

    On the other hand, if each of us took a page from California’s most prudent large-scale water storage facilities, maybe we’d be less dependent on the kinds of exorbitant transactions that grow out of desperate demand.

    For example, smart home water storage might help maintain a garden during a drought, easing the pain of increased produce costs at the grocery store—the inevitable trickle-down as farms pay through the nose to irrigate commercial crops. (Read about both of these ideas in our articles, “Your Drought Year Garden,” and “How Does the California Drought Affect Your Grocery List?”)

    In any case, it’s all a great reminder of the importance of preparation, storage, and self-sufficiency in times of disaster or scarcity.

     

    What has your experience been with droughts and the cost of food, water, or other resources?

     

    -Stacey

    For more tips about water storage check out:

    45 Ways to Conserve Water

    Water Storage Overview

    Water Storage Options

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: drought, California Drought

  • Want to spice up your daily meals, but don’t have the time to make anything “fancy?”

    Here are 7 reasons why freeze-dried chicken will not only make cooking easier, but will also add variety and freshness to your cooking repertoire. You’ll become a gourmet chef in no time using this versatile freeze-dried ingredient.

    7 Reasons Why you Need Freeze-Dried Chicken

    1. Already sliced, diced, and chopped. The best thing about using freeze-dried chicken is you don’t have to spend time slicing and cutting meat. It makes cooking much easier.

    2. Tastes Just like chicken. That’s because it is real chicken! Before freeze-drying, our chicken is cooked and seasoned using fresh ingredients. Once it’s reconstituted, it has the same flavor, texture, and taste as chicken cooked over the stovetop or baked in the oven at home.

    3. Don’t have a lot of time to cook dinner? For a quick meal, simply reconstitute chicken in water for 5 minutes, drain, and add to a salad, casserole, quesadilla, or pot pie to spice up your last-minute meals.

    4. If you hate touching raw meat, go freeze-dried. Using freeze-dried chicken eliminates the spread of bacteria from raw meat. Freeze-dried chicken is pre-cooked, so you can get your meal on the table with less mess and less hassle.

    5. Quicker clean-up. Whenever you  cook with raw chicken, you probably spend a lot of time using anti-bacterial sprays and cleaners to make sure any residue is gone. But when you use freeze-dried meat, the only thing you’ll have to clean up is the bowl you use to reconstitute the meat in and the pan you use to cook with.

    6. Have a home cooked meal anywhere. Having a supply of freeze-dried chicken on hand adds variety and a home-cooked taste to meals during an emergency or on a camping trip.

    7. Spice up your Daily Meals. If you’re tired of eating spaghetti (again),you can make a variety of dishes and new family favorites using freeze-dried chicken. I’ve been amazed at some of the gourmet creations we’ve made here in our test kitchen using freeze-dried chicken as one of the main ingredients.

    For instance, check out this pic of a gourmet chicken gnocchi soup we made—from scratch! It looks so good; you’d think it came from a restaurant. You can make delicious meals like this in your home any time, using freeze-dried chicken.

    7 Reasons Why you Need Freeze-Dried Chicken

     

    These are just 7 reasons why freeze-dried chicken is great to use for cooking. But don’t just take our word for it. Try out some of our Freeze-Dried Chicken Crumbles in one of the four amazing chicken dishes listed below, and tell us what you think.

     

    Want more recipes? Give these a try:

    linguini chicken with vegetables

    Linguini Chicken with Vegetables

    Oriental Chicken Salad

    Oriental Chicken Salad

     

    Food Storage Meal: Chicken A La King

    Chicken ALA King

    Cajun Creamy Chicken and Pasta

    Cajun Chicken and Pasta

     

    What’s your favorite way to use freeze-dried chicken or other freeze-dried meat?

    -Angela

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: food storage, freeze dried food, freeze-dried chicken

  • Fun in the Sun: Keeping Summer Safe

    This is an actual photo of my two-year-old’s legs after only one month of summer. I’m finding that with kids, “summer legs” has almost nothing to do with the shape or shade of my own appendages, and lots more to do with the bruises, bumps, and bug bites that decorate the little legs at our house as soon as the weather’s warm enough to wear shorts.

    We know that summertime holds its own particular hazards: incidents of drowning spike in the summer, and almost nobody loses a finger to fireworks in March. But even the little things—like a nasty sunburn from a fun day on the beach, or getting mosquito bites on your favorite hike—can add up to a seriously unpleasant season, both for you and your little people’s legs.

    Fortunately, we’ve got you covered. Actually, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC have you covered, and we’re right there with them! Each organization releases an annual tip list to help families focus on summer safety. Both are organized by category (bugs, fireworks, water, heat, and sun), and the AAP’s list even includes things that might not first jump to mind when we think of summer, like bicycle, skateboard, ATV, and lawnmower safety.

    You can find their respective lists at the links below.

    While a whole lot of this is common sense, a few of these tips were news to me. Like the fact that sparklers can reach past 1,000 degrees F bright or floral prints can attract bees and wasps, and children under 12 shouldn’t operate walk-behind mowers (there goes my four-year-old’s summer job!).

    I like lists like these that give me quick, handy reminders. But if I need more in-depth information on summer-specific solutions, I go to articles, like these

    Whatever your summer plans, please build in some safety prep! We want those little legs in working order come fall!

    What do you do to stay safe in the summer?

    -Stacey

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: safety, summer

  • Deadly Twisters in New York

    Tornados are in the news again. This time it’s the Northeast that’s getting the worst of it. Just this month, four people were killed in upstate New York as a twister whipped through the small town of Smithfield. NBC news is calling it the “state’s second deadliest” tornado since the 1950s—truly off the charts for a state that typically sees smaller category tornados and rarely sustains this kind of damage from them.

    According to the AP, Smithfield’s tornados were actually part of a larger storm system battering the region and  leaving more than 350,000 homes without power. You can see a slideshow of the damage to New York and even some parts of Pennsylvania here.

    Apparently, storm and tornado season varies from region to region, with twisters showing up most frequently in the spring down South, and moving up to the Midwest and Northeast through the summer. I’ll let the smart people at weather.com explain why. The same smart people also have a super cool map of tornado risk by month and region, in case you want to check on your area or nail down vacation plans.

    Anyhow, we’re keeping a weather eye on the storms with NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, reading back up on “Preparing for a Tornado,” and hoping everyone’s staying safe!

     

    --Stacey

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: Tornado, tornadoes, natural disasters

  • 15 Food Storage Hacks to Make Cooking Easier

    You may think of food storage as buckets of wheat and beans that are useless in your everyday cooking.

    Not so, my friends. Here are 15 food storage hacks to make your cooking easier and more awesome on a daily basis:

    1. Dehydrated onion flakes = no chopping onions = no tears. Win.

    2. Freeze-dried fruit crushed into powder in a blender makes an awesome addition to frosting and filling for cakes, cookies, and other treats.

    3. Powdered milk is fantastic for baking and everyday use (especially when you unexpectedly run out and your kids are about to stage a mutiny).

    4. Powdered milk is also great for those who use milk infrequently. No sense in letting half of the container go bad—just mix up the amount you want on an as-needed basis. Also, powdered milk has come a long way since your childhood days of “scorched-tasting” milk. Don’t be afraid.

    5. Use the powder or leftover pieces of your favorite freeze-dried fruits or spices to create delicious compound butters to spread on bread and other treats.

    6. Instead of chopping up garlic, Minced Garlic is a super convenient product to store. It will cut your prep time in half, and you can use it in your favorite meals. (And, bonus, your hands won’t smell like garlic.)

    7. Freeze-dried veggies are an easy way to have seasonal vegetables at any time of year. Add them to soups and casseroles without having to chop, slice, or dice.

    8. Add Peanut Butter Powder to smoothies. You’ll get all the flavor with much less fat.

    9. Use Butter Powder to make spreadable butter in a hurry.

    10. If you get home late or forgot to plan dinner, you can use Taco Mix (TVP) to make tacos in a flash!

    11. Freeze-dried fruit is perfect in smoothies. You can also use Freeze-dried fruits to make apple-peach or strawberry-banana bread.

    12. Looking for a great after school snack for the kids? FD fruits are healthy and taste so good, the kids won’t miss candy (well . . . )

    13. Use Freeze-dried meats as toppings for homemade pizza.

    14. Got a “Helper” meal or pre-packaged meal that requires meat? You can use freeze-dried meats as substitutes in your favorite pre-packaged dishes.

    15. Wheat berries don’t just have to be used for flour. You can use wheat berries as a meat extender or a substitute for meat in meals. Check out our post, “All about Wheat” to find out how.

    How do you use food storage to make cooking easier?

    -Angela, Dawn, and Urban Girl

     

     

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: food storage, cooking, emergency cooking

  • Preparedness in the News: 5 Things to know this week

    An overhead shot of the California wildfire from July 18th

     

    Here are five need-to-know news stories in the world of emergency preparedness for the week of July 14th-18th :

    1. Typhoon Rammasun Impacts the Phillippines

    Typhoon Rammasun pummeled the shores of Manila on Tuesday, July 15th. After experiencing the wrath of Typhoon Haiyan last year, hundreds of thousands of residents fled to higher ground and worked to shore up their weakened homes in anticipation of more severe storms. Read the full story from Foxnews.com.

    2. California Considers Setting Mandatory Water Curbs

    As a result of the three-year drought impacting California and other states in the West, California lawmakers are considering creating mandatory state-wide water restrictions for the first time during the drought. You’ll be surprised by how much the proposed out-of-pocket fine is for using your sprinkler in California...Check out the full story at foxnews.com.

    3. Chemical Leak Near Thailand’s Eastern Seaport Sickens Nearly 100

    On Thursday, July 17, at least 94 people were exposed to a chemical leak from a ship docked in Bangkok, Thailand. Residents were asked to evacuate the area and to seek medical attention.  Read more about this chemical leak from CBS News. But this is not the first time Thailand has been in the news this summer, read  about the recent political unrest and disaster scenarios people are preparing for in Thailand in our article, “Thailand Natural, and not so Natural Disasters.”

    4. Washington State Wildfires is so Massive it Creates Mushroom-Like Cloud

    Low humidity and 100 degree temperatures have created the perfect conditions for wildfires and large, billowing smoke clouds this week in Washington State. By July 18th, at least 100 homes had been burned. Emergency crews closed sections of U.S. 2 and other main roads across the state. Residents in Leavenworth, WA were asked to evacuate as ash rained from the sky. Read more from the New York Daily News and NBC News.

    5. Scientists identify Mt. Rainer’s volcanic center in detailed photographs

    According to the Science World Report, “Scientists are getting a closer look at Mount Rainier's volcanic plumbing. By measuring how fast Earth conducts electricity and seismic waves, researchers have made a detailed picture of what happens deep beneath the surface of the mountain.” Learning more about this volcano's internal plumbing helps us better predict and prepare for future eruptions. Check out the rest of the story at scienceworldreport.com.

     

    --Angela 

    Posted In: Uncategorized

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