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Wild Fire Preparation

Natural disasters are devastating for everyone. Wild fires can destroy homes, jobs, and lives. Most of the time it leads to a blind panic over lives, valuables and essentials. Things such as preparation kits can be very helpful during this time. Most of the time you can pack them and forget about them until they are needed. Please keep in mind this is a guideline for 1 kit per person. Personally based on my 2 person family, I am preparing 3 kits. 1 for me, 1 for my spouse, and 1 for our beloved pets.

Okay, let’s take this one step at a time. Keep a level head. This is a fairly simple kit to prepare. For weight purposes, I would suggest one kit per family member. This just makes it lighter to carry and also helped with conservation and portioning of the supplies. Please keep in mind this is just a guide line to use. Your kits can change based on personal and family needs. Also, these kits are for more than just wild fires. They can be used for most emergency evacuation situations.

With most evacuation you want at least two routes to evacuate and get to a safe meeting place. It is best to have these marked on a map. One map per kit just in case you get separated. It is good to make sure you and your family have a meeting place and if children are involved a “safe word”. This is a word to give to emergency services to say “this stranger is safe”. Sometimes families have 2 safe words. One says “This stranger is safe” and the other says “Your family is safe and I will take you to them”.

Let’s start with the basics in your kit. We all have those canned goods in the back of our cabinet that we keep for the “uh-oh” situations. A very important thing to keep in your emergency kit is three days worth of non-perishable food and three gallons of water per person. Canned goods do have expiration dates however they do take a while to get to that date. Generally you want this food to have at least some nutritional value to them. My kits are being formed as I write this article and the packs will change with each family member. For water, you can get cheap gallon jugs of water from your local big box store.

Typically you don’t need huge portions. Personally for our kits, I picked cheap foods and cans that had been in the back of the cabinet for a questionable amount of time.

Okay, so now that we won’t be weak from lack of nutrition or dehydration. Let’s talk about the other big elephant in the room. Many people don’t think about this. Prescriptions, specialty medications, and eyewear. We all generally have a place in our home to store our medications, spare glasses, and other things needed for our health. If possible, ask for an extra refill so you can pack it away. However, if your doctor does not allow this or your medications have expiration dates, keep all of these things close together and keep a travel bag big enough for all of them near by. If you or a loved one has any sort of conditions, this could be a big life or death thing you can’t afford to forget.

VERY IMPORTANT! In your emergency kit, fill a ziplock bag with the credentials and such you may need. This bag is a good place to store back up bank and credit cards, cash, extra car keys, and traveler checks. In a second bag pack copies of you vital records and identification. This second bag should include a copy of your birth certificate, social security card, passport, drivers license, and any other important documents. These will come in handy for insurance policies, missing persons, and much more. This are very important.

No one wants to stink. Showers most likely will not be available when your in the middle of an evacuation. However, hygiene stuff and a spare change of clothes. For my family of two I have packed the following:

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Body wash
  • 3 or more changes of underwear
  • Sweatpants (one pair for each of us)
  • Gym shorts (one pair for each of us)
  • 2 shirts (two for each of us)
  • Socks ( four pairs for each of us)
  • 2 pairs of shoes (two for each of us in case one pair breaks)

When you start to panic people tend to be less cautious. In your emergency kit you should also have a basic first aide kit. You can purchase a kit or create your own based on your needs. Most important is bandages, antibiotic cream, and ibuprofen. Store brought kits do tend to be cheaper in the long run and have much more than you would usually need in them. My first aide kits include emergency blankets and other things typically found in a vehicle emergency kit such as flares, caution triangles, tow rope, and more.

Don’t lose communication. Keep a flashlight with batteries in your kit. Along with a battery powered radio. If you are able to locate the flashlights that are shaken for power, those are not as bright but are still effective. Extra batteries are a must. Please check the storage recommendations on the packaging to ensure you don’t have corrosive batteries or other chances of contamination. These will be very important in keeping you up to date with local authorities.

Don’t forget our animal family! Make sure you have a small go bag packed for your the pets. This to should include at least 3 days of food, 3 gallons of water per pet, leash, vet papers, tags, and possibly a comfort item such as a favorite toy or blanket.

Image curtesy of my mother. This is the constant “go-bag” she has for her emotional support dog. My pets bag is not created yet.

If time allows, you can grab other valuable things such as jewelry. Family photos are irreplaceable most of the time. If you have time, grab what you can. Personal computer information and hard drives or disks are another thing to grab if you have time. Along with chargers for your cell phone and other devices. Personally, I have taken to scanning all family photos to a usb drive with the intention of having copies of them in my emergency kit. A usb drive is how I have copies of all personal paperwork, documentation copies, and family photos. However, technology is not always available. I am still keeping paper copies of the most important paperwork in my emergency kit.

Sources: https://www.readyforwildfire.org/prepare-for-wildfire/get-set/emergency-supply-kit/ , my mother, grandmother, and great aunt

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Tornado Alley Winter

This region is called tornado alley for a reason. This infamous area makes gardening a new level of difficulty. The most intense area covers Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, eastern Colorado, and South Dakota. Some other states are still in Tornado Alley but are less intense. These states are Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Iowa, Tennessee, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Image via google maps

With winter weather fast approaching, everyone wants to winterize their gardens to try to make the next year a little easier. Winter in tornado alley is very tricky. Winter tornadoes are subject to being particularly deadly. Not because they are stronger, but they do tend to move faster. These cold weather tornadoes are more often then not associated with strong frontal systems that form in the central states and make their way east. This is according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory.

After talking with some family in the area; I learned a lot about if and how to winterize your garden. Due to the constant threat of tornadoes, you can take some precautions. However, some precautions are practically useless if or when a tornado strikes.

In tornado alley you pretty much follow the same winterizing technics as other areas. You need to cut, chop, and clean your bushes. Make sure to “dead head” your flowering bushes to allow for new blooms to come through.

Another big step is to remove the invasive plants and weeds so they don’t take over next year. Make sure to get any and all weeds. If you have an invasive plant like mint, it would be good to uproot and pot what you want for next year. However, get rid of the excess. Some of the more invasive plants will go dormant but take over your garden the next year.

At least 6 weeks before the ground freezes, divide your perennials. If you have plants that have “bald spots” they are good to get rid of. Also plants that haven’t blooms. Divide the ones that just seem to be at the end of their life. This will assist in the process next year.

Another great technic is to give your bulbs some much needed love. Dig up and store the more tender bulbs that might not survive the freeze. Some of these types of bulbs are dahlias and cannas. Drying them out in newspaper for a few weeks and then put them in a container and cover them with sawdust, sand, perlite or vermiculite until they’re ready to be replanted is a good way to save your plants. When a hard freeze is predicted, adding an extra layer of mulch to the hardy bulbs you’ve left in the ground can sometimes help.

After dividing your plants, dead-heading, and pulling some of the bulbs; you should show your flower beds some love. Add approximately 3 to 4 inches of compost to the beds. Nutrients from the compost will seep into the bed over the winter and the thawing season. In the spring you can turn the compost into the soil for some extra help.

Spread mulch! Seriously, spread mulch. This is extremely important for perennials that haven’t had time to root fully. If possible, wait for the ground to start to freeze then add a nice thick layer of mulch on top. The mulch will help keep the ground consistently cold or frozen until spring. Failure to do this can result in the ground heaving and possibly uprooting new plants. Check the mulch in January or February to see if it has thinned due to winter stressors such as wind and thawing snow. You can always add more mulch as needed.

Picture courtesy of aslip nursery

Evergreens need to be well hydrated. If autumn has been particularly dry then your evergreens need a deep soak. Evergreens, such as yews, and broadleaf evergreens, such as hollies and boxwoods, are susceptible to winter burn because they release moisture through their leaves through out the year. Pay extra attention to broadleaf types that have a south or southwest exposure to the afternoon sun, and give them extra water if needed.

Wrap your trees. This sounds funny but according to my landscaping friends this is really a thing. Newly planted trees (especially fruit trees) have thin bark. They can suffer from sun scald or crack from fluctuating day/night temperatures. Apparently, there are things such as tree wrap tape and plastic spiral tree protectors that can help prevent this problem.

Now, this is another one I didn’t know until I talked to my landscaping friends. Create a wind break. Exposed evergreens are susceptible to wind burn. In the fall before the ground begins to freeze, place 3 to 5 stakes on the side of your plants that will get the most wind. Putting the stakes in a “v” formation with the front stake facing windward. Once this is done wrap them in something such as burlap. This will effectively reduce the amount of cold wind that hits your evergreens. You don’t need to wrap the whole plant just the “v” you created in the ground.

Got shrubs? Tender shrubs can be wrapped in a material such as burlap to help protect them during hard or prolonged freezes. However, this wrap will need removed during warmer days and warmer weather to prevent overheating the plant. Another option is to create a “teepee” type design over the plant with some agricultural fabric. This will help with winter burn, drowning in snow, winter winds and more.

Hope these tips and tricks help! Have a safe and happy winter all!

Sources: friends and family in the landscaping business. Thank you to Steve, Jeremy, Jake, and Bernard. Also a huge thank you to my family Teresa, Debbie, Danell, and David.

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Brazilian Chicken Curry with Spinach

Join me on a trip to South America and the history of curry in this beautiful region!

Historically, the term “curry” was used in British cuisine to denote dishes of meat in a Western-style sauce flavored with curry powder. This orginated I’m Indian sub-continent that used a complex combination of spices and herbs. Curry has been changed and altered all over the world. Often, curry is prepared in the form of a sauce. Curry dishes may contain meat, shellfish, fish, or poultry. Sometimes this is in combination with vegetables.

Brazil is a beautiful melting pot of cooking practices and traditions. Many waves of immigrants brought their typical dishes and altered the recipe. The recipes were altered by replacing the missing ingredients with local ones in order to keep down cost and adapt to the new land.

Based on my research, Curry in Brazil seems to be most used used in Northeastern Brazilian cuisine. When you look into this area it says there is a huge influence of African cuisine from coastal areas. However, this seems to be the area that used spices most similar to a “traditional” curry. Using spices such as coriander, turmeric, and chili powder to create similar flavors that have only been slightly adapted to the regions culture by adding ingredients such as coconut milk. 

I looked into at least thirty or more recipes related to “South American Curry Dishes”. The closest I got was a Brazilian adaptation of a chicken curry dish. Please note that not all curry dishes have meat in them and can range in flavor from spicy to savory and even sometimes sweet. 

I found a recipe from written by a woman named Jennifer. To give credit where credit is due, I will share a link to her page at the end. Personally, I am almost always on a budget, so I altered her recipe a bit to suit my wallet. The recipe is for Brazilian Chicken Curry with Spinach. I did use her suggested cooking directions. However, my ingredients are slightly different due to my budget and families dietary needs. 

Brazilian Chicken Curry with Spinach 

(Link to original recipe located in sources)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 tsp turmeric

1 1/2 tsp fresh parsley (in place of coriander)

1 1/2 tsp chili powder (in place of cumin)

1 – 1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 ½ tsp table salt

1 tsp black pepper

8 in boneless skinless chicken filets (or 4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cut half lengthwise/butterfied)

2 ½ Tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion chopped

1 green bell pepper

2 tsp fresh ginger minced (I used ginger paste)

2 small jalapeno peppers seeded and chopped

2 cloves garlic minced 

3 fresh tomatoes seeded and chopped (could use drained canned diced tomatoes)

14 oz coconut milk 

6 cups fresh baby spinach

Instructions

  1. Heat 1 Tbsp. of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Stir together the parsley, turmeric ,chili powder, cayenne (use lower amount for less heat), salt and pepper in a wide, shallow bowl or plate. Pat chicken dry. Press chicken pieces in to the spice mixture to coat, then transfer to hot skillet. Cook, turning once, until browned, 6-8 minutes (Doesn’t need to be completely cooked, as it will be returned to cook some more). Remove chicken to a plate and cover loosely with tin foil to keep warm. (I did not have tin foil so I placed Pyrex bowl over my plate with a spoon under the edge to allow ventilation)
  3. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in same skillet. Cook onion, ginger, Green bell pepper, jalapenos and garlic until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes (I used the canned diced) and cook, stirring, until tomatoes are softened. (When using canned, add after the onions start to turn translucent and green bell pepper starts to soften) Stir in coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Return chicken to skillet and and juices. Reduce heat to low and simmer until chicken is cooked through and sauce has thickened slightly. Add spinach and stir in. Cook just until spinach is wilted. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper, if needed.
  4. Serve over rice is desired.

Note: in order for a sweeter and more acidic curry, I added a 1 tbsp of pineapple juice to step 3. You don’t need much, a little went a long way in this dish.

I found this dish was best served with a white rice as it can hold up under the chicken. Also, it soaks up some of the curry allowing you to mix your food into a stir fry like meal. I cut my chicken up for playing in order to make it easier to mix and serve. Also, creating slivers versus leaving the fillet whole allowed me to make the meal a bit quicker. In my home even a fresh meal needs to be quick as we all have weird schedules. The original recipe says it takes approximately 35 minutes total to cook. I was able to keep my cool time to almost exactly 35 minutes from start to finish. Perfect quick meal to spice up the daily routine! Hope you enjoy!!

Sources:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curry

https://www.seasonsandsuppers.ca/brazilian-chicken-curry-spinach/

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazilian_cuisine

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curry_powder

cumin substitute searched on google

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Chicory the blue dandelion

Walking around my town, I noticed these beautiful little purplish blue flowers. I asked my mother-in-law and she said “oh that’s Chicory, we have it in our own front yard”. As we continued our walk I started taking pictures, looking up different ways to use this, and  what it’s all about.

Let’s start with a bit of trivia on this beautiful plant. It comes from the dandelion family and is sometimes called the “blue dandelion”. The formal name is cichorium intybus. Chicory is extremely versatile and found practically everywhere in my town of Gettysburg Pennsylvania. You can eat the flower, leaves, and root! From research I have found that this is actually considered a “weed” and is often overlooked. Chicory is also very high in protein. As well as being perennial plant. You can use almost the entire plant. They are the most flavorful in the spring and autumn. In the summer heat they can become rather bitter and unappetizing. Chicory is also a great source of vitamin A and vitamin C.

Even though this specific plant is fairly easy to find; there is debate on where to harvest these plants. Chicory can be found on the side of the highway just as easily as on a country road. When you see these beautiful little plants on the side of the highway; keep in mind they do soak up a lot of toxins from the cars and road treatments. It is best to get chicory from your own backyard or the side of a lesser used road. Harvesting chicory from somewhere other than the highway can be much healthier. Please keep in mind the chicory found on state roads and highways does get sprayed with chemicals as well. These plants are also fairly small. If you plan to harvest you might want to plan for a longer day outside. A small shovel or trowel will help you with retrieving the roots with as little damage to them as possible. When harvesting something so small, you want to salvage and use all you can find. 

One of the most amazing uses I found was for holistic purposes. The roots can be boiled and eaten with butter. They can be used as a stomach, heart, digestive, and liver tonic. It also works as a diuretic and an anti-inflammatory agent. For my household, this is very helpful. I found out through conversation that my father-in-law actually uses this to assist with his liver health. The reason this plant is so helpful is because scientists have found inulin, fructose, choline, resin, chicoric acid, esculetin, esculin, cichoriin, umbelliferone, and scopoletin I’m chicory. Honestly, the fancy names does mean much to me but they are the facts. 

Chicory leaves can be cooked down and sautéed. One of the best ways to do this is to go for a walk and collect about a pound of chicory leaves. You want to pick them while they are still young to get the best flavor from them. Once you get them home rinse them very well under cool water and cut in half. Cook in unsalted boiled water until tender but not mushy. Make sure you drain them very well. In a medium sauce pan add about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 ½ cloves of garlic, and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt. If you choose to add something such as red pepper flakes (to add some spice) do this at this time as well. Once everything is in the pan, add the chicory. Toss those beautiful leaves in this mix on a medium heat for about 2 minutes. When you remove this dish from the heat serve immediately for the best results. If you leave it sit you will get a small pool of oil that is not very appetizing to look at. 

Chicory roots can be baked, ground, and used as a coffee substitute. They provide a somewhat woody flavor. Once this is brewed it is best with a little cream and sugar. Personally, I do not like a greasy or oily coffee. Chicory does create a slight oil. If you are picky like me, this might not be the best use for you.

Here is a copy of the recipe previously mentioned. I did get this recipe from my father-in-law after he has tried many and adjusted it to his own likings.

Sautéed Chicory

Ingredients:

  • Approximately 1 pound of chicory leaves

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 ½ cloves of garlic

  • ½ teaspoon of salt

  • red pepper flakes or other spices (this is added to taste specific to your liking)

Directions:

  1. Wash leaves in cool water and cut in half.

  2. Boil in unsalted water until tender but not mushy.

  3. In a small to medium frying pan; add garlic and olive oil on a medium heat. Allow this to cook for a couple seconds to ensure the flavors will reach the whole dish. 

*note* if adding other spices do so at step 3. 

  1. Add the Chicory and salt. Toss gently and cook for approximately 2 minutes.

  2. Serve immediately 

References:

Wikipedia.com/chicory

The Scientific World Journal

Volume 2017, Article ID 7343928

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