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Dog lost after Superstorm Sandy, found year and a half later at SPCA

Posted by on May 7, 2014 in Good News Recovery stories | Comments Off on Dog lost after Superstorm Sandy, found year and a half later at SPCA

IMG_1384We right and talk alot about how to be prepared for all types of storms, but our blog has missed out on a lot of the Good News stories highlighting how survivors have overcome horrible  looses and bounced back. While your odds of survival when properly prepared are much higher, many times survival happens by chance which is why one of favorite quotes is “Chance Favours the Prepared Mind”.Protect Your Pets During Snowstorms

Here’s a great story about a partial recovery a year and a half after loosing their home to Superstorm Sandy. This family had almost given up hope that they’d ever find their dog Reckless. If you’re a dog or pet lover, this story from the Asbury Park Press is for and video from the Good News Network, is the right story for you..

EATONTOWN — Chuck and Elicia James were all smiles Friday afternoon as they walked their dog on a leash, preparing for a warm weekend of camping.

That’s because walking their dog was something they haven’t done for over a year and a half, ever since they thought they lost Reckless, their friendly brown and white terrier-pit bull mix, who was missing since superstorm Sandy.

But on Thursday, they received an unexpected surprise when they went to the Monmouth County SPCA to adopt a new dog; they found their old friend.

“Literally when we opened the double doors, the first cage we walk up to I thought ‘that looks like Reckless,’ ” Chuck James said. “He was a little heavier and it’s been a little while, but then my wife saw the scar on his head and immediately we start tearing up and we found our dog.”

The James family — Chuck and Elicia and their children, Alexandra, Kelsey and Liam — were living in Keansburg when superstorm Sandy damaged their home during the night of Oct. 29-30, 2012. Chuck James said the fence in the yard was mangled during the storm and the dog got out.

“We had a collar on the dog, but it got caught on the fence and came off before he got out,” James said.

The family searched for months for Reckless, but eventually gave up when no sign of Reckless was found.

“We chalked it up to that someone probably found it, or it was dead,” Chuck James said. “You keep searching, but eventually you have to move on.”

Seeking a new dog
A couple of weeks ago, Alexandra James turned 10, and the family decided it was time to get a new dog. On Thursday, they headed to the Monmouth Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter in Eatontown and met with an adoption specialist to look at different dogs.

Once they were inside, they recognized Reckless and showed the adoption specialist pictures of the family with the dog to prove it really was their dog. In the end, they were able to take Reckless back home.

We were all ecstatic, and he made it clear that he was home and we were home,” Chuck James said.

“I’m just glad that he’s home,” Elicia James said. “The kids are happy, and this whole thing has been an amazing experience.”

The family ended up paying a $180 adoption fee, which Chuck James had no problem paying.

“They took care of the dog, microchipped him, he saw a vet regularly, and (they) sheltered him,” James said. “It was like bailing my dog out of jail.”

Since this winter, the family has been staying at the Staybridge Suites in Eatontown, as their rented Keansburg home is going to get some repairs from Sandy damage. But the hotel will allow them to keep Reckless.

Liz Wise, development and marketing director at the Monmouth County SPCA, said something like this happening is very rare.

“It’s not very often we’re able to reunite them with their owners in the way that this happened. It does happened sometimes, but this was a very rare story,” Wise said. “It also shows the importance of microchipping your pets because had he been microchipped, we would’ve been able to reunite him with his family sooner.”

Wise said the dog was found as a stray in October 2013 by the Monmouth County SPCA. She said they assumed someone had taken him in for a period of time before he got loose again.

“It’s a wonderful story and a very happy ending for the family,” Wise said. “It’s something that really warmed our hearts and when we put it on Facebook for our followers, and we had no idea so many people would feel the same way.”

Earth Day 2014

Posted by on Apr 22, 2014 in Ecology | Comments Off on Earth Day 2014

What did you do today for Earth Day 2014?

We’d like to know so add a comment on this page or our Facebook page.


There are so many ways we can be good stewards of Mother Earth that’s its hard to say we’ve only done one today. How to stop Trashing our Oceans - Huffington Post


Recycling for us has been a way of life for years. The most common items we recycle are  batteries, glass, aluminum cans (the only item that’s  100% fully recyclable), plastic bottles, tubs, and trays, and certain food scraps for our compost pile.


Mulching and Composting another way to celebrate Earth Day more than once a year. We’ve been using a Sears  chipper/mulcher for 20+ years to shred all types of yard waste and setting it into a compost pile. Okay, have to admit we have gotten a lot more selective about what we mulch and compost.

One year the compost pile hadn’t reached the right temp ( I think its 160 degrees) and all these seeds from a grapevine I mulched sprouted the following Spring. We had vines all over the place, and it took a few years to pull them all out.


Minimize use of Fertilizers and Pesticides,  yep I have to admit this one can be a tough sell for any avid gardener. I rarely use fertilizer for the lawn anymore but still use those fruit tree fertilizer spikes and Miracle Grow for some of our veges and the seedlings in our basement mini greenhouse. We’ve been using this for two years and love getting a head start on our plants especially after a hard Winter!


Litter Patrol, yet another weekly activity we do. We will routinely walk the dog around the neighborhood and clean up any litter we find along our path. I can’t tell you how many plastic bags we clean-up and recycle. Whenever I hear of a municipality that has banned them  I feel the need for a little celebration.

What does Litter Patrol accomplish? It beautifies our neighborhood, we get to meet our neighbors and see them also appreciating everything Mother Earth has to offer.

It also has what I call the Mayor Rudy Giuliani effect. When people see a of of litter, graffiti, and general disorder it makes them feel no one cares and it’s okay to just drop their garbage wherever. It leads to a domino effect that can spiral out of control until someone takes stand against it.

Cleaning up your neighborhood every week is probably the single best way to start celebrating Earth Day. Its fast, local, and everyone notices!

Here’s an infographic I found from Huffington Post that talks about how this litter works its way through the streets, creeks, streams, and rivers, then ends up in our Oceans were it contaminates wildlife, including some of the fish we eat.

Broken water main that flooded Philly street was 106 years old

Posted by on Apr 2, 2014 in Water Storage | Comments Off on Broken water main that flooded Philly street was 106 years old

Broken water main that flooded Philly street was 106 years old


It happen on  Christmas Eve, 2013. You’re having your entire family over for Christmas day and busy putting together those gifts for your kids, nephews and nieces coming over tomorrow, while also baking cookies and making a roast. A broken water main…


Then without any warning, a 48 inch water main breaks and you have NO WATER.

Full repairs from the water main break may take months to be completely fixed.

Bottled water isn’t the answer since you need a gallon a day per person, and that doesn’t include water to clean yourself or your dirty dishes. 


Do you have a plan that’ll make sure you and your family have a safe and reliable supply of water? Don’t let a broken water main derail your life or party.

Click here to get ready.


Ship flat 5 gallon water storage

5 gallon water container ships flat


5 gallon water storage ships flatEmergency Water Storage Containers



Once  you have a way to store water, how can you be sure your water is safe to drink.

How do you purify the water you have before you store it in one of the containers above?

FEMA and American Red Cross recommend 3 treatment methods for treating water in an emergency:


  1. Boiling as most municipalities is very good against  biological agents, but tends to concentrate other contaminants.
  2. The Ready Store-56-gallon-interlocking-waterbrick-storage-kitChlorination is good against biologicals but does nothing against other contaminants.
  3. *DISTILLATION is the best method provides the highest level of protection against biologicals, is excellent against other types of contaminants and can even desalinate salty ocean water!


Do you know how to distill your water if it becomes contaminated?


Keep your Family during an emergency with a pure water source using the Survival Still water distillation system. Click the image below to learn more.

Free Water Distillation at Home

Here’s the story from the local Philly news.

Water gushed from a massive water main break that left thousands of Philadelphia residents, businesses and dozens of schools for miles around without water the day before Christmas Eve.

In all, officials say the city lost 20 to 23 million gallons of water. That’s the equivalent of 30 to 34 Olympic -size swimming pools.

The 48-inch line broke just before 9 a.m. Through their computer monitoring system, the Philadelphia Water Department knew almost immediately that they had a big problem on their hands.

“We knew there was 150 million gallons of a water a day, leaving our system,” said Howard Neukrug, Water Commissioner.

This broken water main was 106 years old and that’s not immediately too old. Philadelphia has more than 3,000 miles of water mains buried under city streets — the average age of a main is 86 years old, according to the water department. The average main is expected to function properly for 100 to 120 years under “favorable conditions.”

All that water and the force behind it gushed out of the street at the intersection of Torresdale and Frankford Avenues in the Frankford section of Philadelphia, quickly flooding the area right in front of the Nana’s Day Care, where the water rose between three and five feet, according to the fire department.

“The teachers did an excellent job of exercising their evacuation plan,” said Derrick Sawyer, deputy fire commissioner. “Because they followed their procedures, we didn’t have to make any dramatic rescues.” But rescue crews did prepare for worst-case scenario moments by launching rafts into a nearby creek in case people got swept away by the fast-rising water.

Nearly three hours after the pipe burst, 20 feet below ground, water department workers were able to pinpoint the break. By the late afternoon they were able to repair the main, which was built in 1907 and connects to an even bigger pipe — a 60-inch main, which was built in 1906.

“We’ll be looking at whether age is a factor,” said Neukrug. “Typically though, even with pipes that are 100 years old, we find they are in very good condition.”

The pipe that burst feeds smaller, 12-inch lines that send water into homes and businesses for about a three-mile radius, according to Neukrug. For that reason, thousands of people were affected. Their water was either out or the pressure was too low for basic functions like flushing a commode. Problems like that forced 38 local schools to close early. Many businesses did the same.

By early afternoon, crews had dug up pieces of asphalt as heavy machinery cleaned debris left by the large amount of water and mud. Water was restored for the affected customers, according to officials. Crews will be on site for several days to clean up the area. They also say full repairs could take months.

“We’re going to be looking at cleaning up the sites, then once we get the site cleaned up we’ll have our inspectors come out and our claims adjusters come out and work with the businesses that are in the area to make sure everything is fine. We will then spend a little bit of time excavating this pipe and finding what the fault was and making the repairs,” Neukrug said.

The Impact:

Within minutes, thousands lost water service around the city. The break affected water customers in eight different zip codes (19121, 19122, 19123, 19124, 19130, 19134, 19137, 19140). Water Department spokesman John DiGiulio said reverse 911 calls would be made to alert customers of the outage.

Philadelphia firefighters relocated six people and children from nearby businesses. They had all returned home, according to Mayor Michael Nutter who applauded the efforts of rescue workers during an early afternoon news conference.

“Special shout-out to the water and fire departments for their immediate response, for making sure citizens were first safe and secure,” Nutter said.

Emergency Generator Safety

Posted by on Feb 14, 2014 in Building Design, Disaster Recovery News | Comments Off on Emergency Generator Safety

Whatever the weather, its tough to loose electricity. Its especially difficult when its freezing cold or boiling hot.

Half of all Carbon Monoxide (CO) deaths occur from people incorrectly using their emergency generators too close to their home and/or having nearby windows, doors, and vents open.NIST study Figure 1

Reading so many stories of people running them in their garage (HINT: it doesn’t matter if the garage door open), made me wonder what the safe distance is from your home. I found a good video and included a report from The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) titled Modeling the Effects of Outdoor Gasoline Powered Generator Use on Indoor CO Exposures. The NIST ran an experiment to try and decide the best the placement of an emergency gasoline generator. Here’s a helpful video discussing their experiment with a single floor 3 bedroom home. Its a good short video talking about emergency generator safety.


Alot of people have bought generators in the last decade either from a local hardware store or from an online retailer. Online retail works for for big heavy equipment too. About three years ago I bought a Yardman 357cc snowblower with heated handles and a headlight from Northern Tools. It was a tough winter and all the local stores were sold of snowblowers. The one issue with buying from an online retailer is dealing with any operational issues as you start using the generator or snow blower.

I had a couple of tech calls for something that was as simply as just overfilling the snow blower with oil. If I bought one locally I could simply gone back to the store and asked someone more knowledgeable‎.


The Conclusion from the NIST:
“Through a series of simulations on a one-story manufactured house, this study found that positioning a generator 4.6 m (15 feet) from open windows may not be far enough for the house modeled to avoid excessive CO entry. Ideally, the generator should be positioned outside of airflow recirculation regions near the open window. As for human non-controllable factors, a perpendicular wind to the open window often led to more house CO entry than wind with an angle. Lower wind speed generally caused more entry of CO when the outdoor-indoor temperature difference was relatively small so that the CO entry by buoyancy effect could be neglected. When the buoyancy effect was significant, the infiltration of airflow and CO were determined by the combined forces of wind and buoyancy. Major CO entry into the house occurred primarily when the generator was placed inside the airflow recirculation zone, the size of which was found to be related to the dimensions of the house. General guidance for the safe operating distance of a generator could be developed considering the size of the airflow recirculation zone and the house dimensions.”

Emergency Heat When The Power’s Out

Posted by on Feb 5, 2014 in Building Design, Power Outages, Winter Snow Storm | Comments Off on Emergency Heat When The Power’s Out

Emergency Heat When The Power’s Out

How long will my home stay warm if we loose electricity?


That’s a question you’ve probably found an answer to after Winter storm Nika, the hard way. My unofficial poll, the average is about 24 hours. If you have hot air heat and your home was built more than 20 years ago, it’s probably less than 24 hours.

If you live in an area that gets cold in the Winter, having an alternative heat source for when the power goes out is critical!


Many of our friends and family live further out of the city and loose electricity multiple times a year. That’s fine if its not below 50 degrees, but when we’ve had as cold a Winter as we’ve had with high temps barely breaking out of the 20s, loosing electricity becomes dangerous.


Best type of heating systems during an emergency:

  1. Wood burning masonry heater/fireplace (that’s been professionally cleaned and maintained.) The type of heater has masonry Masonry Heaterchannels that circulate the heat internally warming a large mass of brick or stone that radiates the heat for hours after the fire is out.
  2. Natural gas or propane “catalytic” heater. Also called those blue flame heaters. These are the most efficient gas heater and safer than having an open flame like you’d have with option number 3.
  3. Vent free natural gas or propane fireplace (if you aren’t an allergy or asthma sufferer). Yep, I know what a lot of people will say about this choice. Its not healthy to run long term and may create breathing problems for people with allergies and asthma over the long-term. this may be It might be an option for you if  a choice between freezing and having all the pipes in your home burst.
  4. Kerosene – I can’t really say much about this one. I’ve never used one and considering how easy it is to spill gasoline wen filling up the snow blower, the last thing I would want is spilling kerosene in the living room.


NG Vent Free Fireplace

Do you have a small area that could use some extra heat? After some research, I bought this Charmglow vent free fireplace from Home Depot to heat up the front porch. Its rated for 1,000+ square feet and is overkill for the front porch, but can turn a 40 degree room to 65 in about 20 minutes! When I had  it installed I asked the gasman to set it up so that I could move it to basement during a power outage and swap it out with the gas dryer. A heat source in the basement will allow convection heat to work its way up to the second and third floors, preventing a hard freeze if the power goes out for a few days. This unit comes with a built-in CO (carbon monoxide) sensor and I have a separate CO alarm just in case.


Worst types of heating systems from a preppers stand-point;

  1. Electric – once the power is out so is all your heat
  2. Hot -air; whether its electric or natural gas, this type of heating is draftier than the hot water radiator systems and has nothing to radiate heat back into your living space.


If you have either type of heat your home and the electricity goes out during a cold Winter, your home (Castle) will be uninhabitable in about 24 hours. If  have hot water or steam radiator heating systems they will continue to radiate heat for a few hours after the power is out, but even those systems need electricity to pump the heated water or steam through a hot water radiator based system.


Another good prep is setting up a warm room or even a tent inside your home. I recently had a lot of co-workers who lost power for 5 days which is dangerous when the outside temps aren’t getting above the 20s! I really liked the tent idea and using sleeping bags to stay in your home. Those  “space blankets” or “rescue blankets” made of aluminized Mylar is a great heat reflector and just reflects your own body heat back at you. This material was first invented by NASA for the Lunar Excursion Module that landed on the moon. While not insulation, this material reflects heat from both sides, doing an amazing job of helping maintain temperature.

I used one of those emergency $5 mylar sleeps bags during a Winter excursion to a darksky site and watched the Geminid meteor shower without feeling the cold on a 21 degree night. I couldn’t believe  how well that $5 sleeping bag from EMS worked!

You could also buy a few of these blankets to coat the inside of your survival room . You don’t have to do this ahead of time, as you can easily tape or staple the material in place. Don’t forget the ceiling, either. This will help keep the heat you are producing in the room, reducing overall heat requirements and adding to your family’s survivability.





Staten Island Neighborhood Becoming A Wetland?

Posted by on Jan 28, 2014 in Building Design, Disaster Recovery News | Comments Off on Staten Island Neighborhood Becoming A Wetland?

Staten Island Neighborhood Becoming A Wetland?

I’ve been following newstories for months from,  (a non-profit)  and really enjoy their articles on urban planning, sustainability, and building community.


As weather patterns worsen and flood threats increase, the 40% of the US population that live near the coastal areas will face dramatic changes. While 40% is not a majority, the population density of coastal shoreline counties is  over six times greater than the corresponding inland counties per NOAA


What’s this mean for all the people that live near the waters edge. Part of prepping is  knowing what the chances are for a disaster and how to circumvent them. In this case, preparing for storm surge damage and flooding in Staten Island’s Fox Beach neighborhood just became a whole lot more complicated. Here’s a story that talks about how residents are loosing their homes to Mother Nature and the State.Oakwood Beach Staten Island NYC


Before Hurricane Sandy, Staten Island’s Fox Beach neighborhood was a tight-knit, working-class community nestled on the Atlantic Ocean just 20 miles south of Manhattan. By this time next year, it will be an expanse of wetlands.

As part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s NY Rising Housing Recovery Program, the entire Fox Beach community has been deemed eligible for a state-sponsored buyout. More than half of the 185 homeowners have already negotiated terms and signed on to sell their houses back to the state at pre-storm value plus ten percent. The remaining half is expected to follow suit in the coming months. They’ll be joined by more than 200 homeowners in neighboring Oakwood Beach and 129 from the nearby community of Ocean Breeze.

Under the buyout program, properties purchased will be maintained as open space or transformed into coastal buffer zones, parks and other non-residential uses that will help protect nearby communities from the impact of extreme weather.

“There are some places that Mother Nature owns,” said Governor Cuomo as he announced the buyout. “She may only come to visit every two years or three years or four years. But when she comes to visit, she reclaims the site.”


For businesses and residents that didn’t have as much severe damage, there’s a new zoning regulation that encourages people to build up and out of the flood / velocity zone.  Another critical change for coastal residents that may forever change the character of the neighborhoods many of us live in and enjoy visiting or vacationing at.

Foxc Beach Staten Island NYC


As New York City’s hardest hit neighborhoods continue to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy, a handful of small changes to municipal zoning laws could drastically change the way waterfront communities in the five boroughs look.

The new regulations, which were passed into law in October, tweak the city’s zoning code to allow property owners to comply with new FEMA flood standards. The new standards will mean significant design changes to structures in flood-prone areas. But they also attempt to balance the need for flood-proofing with the desire to preserve street-level activity and neighborhood character.

The most obvious change is a rethinking of the way building heights are measured. When it comes to zoning, New York measures building heights from different “zero points” depending on which district you’re in. But none of the districts used a zero point that allowed for a significant buffer (called “freeboard” in zoning parlance) above the base flood elevation.

This created a disincentive for property owners to build above the flood line – if they were to elevate their buildings to base flood elevation plus the freeboard encouraged by FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program, they would quickly butt up against local height restrictions intended to keep the character of neighborhoods consistent.

The new zoning law aims to correct that. Under the new regulations, building height in flood-prone areas will now be measured from the elevation of the lowest habitable floor, which must be built above the base flood elevation plus two feet of freeboard. Practically speaking, that means some of New York’s waterfront neighborhoods will soon see a lot more elevated houses, with storage or parking on the ground floor, and storm-ready foundations capable of withstanding significant flooding.


Do you have an emergency plan yet? What would you do if you suddenly had a foot of water in your basement or first floor of your home, and no electricity for a week or more?


Subscribe here for our guide to cooking without electricity.






Watch out Ohio River residents, here comes MCHM…

Posted by on Jan 27, 2014 in How To Purify Water | Comments Off on Watch out Ohio River residents, here comes MCHM…

Watch out Ohio River residents, here comes MCHM…

When the well runs dry we know the value of water

– Benjamin Franklin

That’s a quote from Benjamin Franklin, and one that unfortunately millions of residents in the Ohio Valley have begun to understand.


The chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or MCHM that leaked on the banks of the Elk River has so little known information that the MSDS fact sheet I looked at this weekend was only about half filled out. I am not sure who manufactured the chemical involved in the spill, but found a copy on the Scientific American website from the Eastman Chemical Company (links at the bottom of this post).


Officials in Kentucky and Ohio were preparing yesterday for the arrival of a slow-moving, 60-mile-long chemical plume drifting toward them down the Ohio River, after its accidental release prompted a five-day water ban here. While many said they didn’t foresee a major problem, they also weren’t taking chances after the release of the chemical, called 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or MCHM. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said his city is going to shut down its water valves for 48 hours beginning Tuesday night, but has enough stored supply to continue providing water.


Do you enough water stored for such an emergency? Remember that you need a gallon of water a day per person.

That’s a lot of bottled water, which also leaves a lot of litter if they are not recycled. A better option is using a series 5 gallon drum from My Food Storage that ships flat. Click here to learn more


Water sanitation officials had found the leading edge of the plume near Portsmouth, Ohio, by 11:30 a.m. Monday. “They could smell it in the air,” said Jerry Schulte, manager of source water protection and emergency response for the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission.


Hold on, I thought city and state officials said this stuff dilutes in water? If it dilutes in water how can you still smell it downsteam more than 60 miles away? That’s a lot of water for something that supposedly dilutes in water, right?


MCHM has a distinct smell, like black licorice, he said. The water ban in West Virginia, which affected 300,000 people, began being partially lifted Monday as tests showed the chemical that infiltrated the supply had largely faded. Authorities said more tests overnight Sunday and early Monday showed the water supply had widely tested at below one part per million of the coal-processing chemical that spilled into the Elk River. The Elk ultimately feeds into the Ohio River. As of Tuesday morning, the ban had been lifted for 35,000 customers, with water service expanded into more of Charleston and several outlying communities. The water company wouldn’t predict how many more people will get water Tuesday nor give an estimate for full restoration. “All we can do is lift areas as we confirm that water samples are below the threshold and as we determine that the water treatment plant is keeping up with increased demand due to flushing,” said Laura Jordan, spokeswoman for West Virginia American Water Co. But the environmental crisis and its fallout appeared far from over, with authorities saying it could be days before water service is fully restored, lawsuits mounting, a criminal investigation under way, and members of Congress calling for a hearing. The ban on tap water went into place after MCHM leaked out of a storage tank, breached a containment wall and traveled into the river last Thursday. The terminal, owned by Freedom Industries Inc., processes chemicals for use in mining.


Remember, you can only live without water for 2-3 days.

While this latest spill has injured many and potentially inconvenienced millions it underscores the need to have a preparation strategy. MCHM is a  chemical that can actually be distilled out of the tap water using Glenn Meder’s Survival Still. Glenn Meder, a leading expert in the distillation industry, click here to learn more about how you can produce a safe and secure water source.


What did you do to prep for this contamination and lack of drinkable water?





Scientific American website article

MSDS from the Eastman Chemical Company

One Millionth Care Package by Operation Gratitude

Posted by on Jan 26, 2014 in Disaster Recovery News | Comments Off on One Millionth Care Package by Operation Gratitude

One Millionth Care Package by Operation Gratitude

While we all prep in one way or another, we also like to write and talk about good stories of recovery after a storm, how people avoided those disaster scenarios by following the proper plan, and the general good will of people helping each other out. Help thy neighbor…


Operation Gratitude is a non-profit military and veteran support organization that has been sending care packages to the troops all over the World since 2003. In 2013 about 2 weeks before Christmas they delivered their 1,000,000th care package.


Here’s a Good News Network story from December 10, 2013

Operation Gratitude boxVolunteers, the non-profit military and veteran support organization, assembled its milestone One Millionth Care Package to the cheers of thousands of supporters assembled for the celebration Sunday. To heighten the excitement, corporate sponsors donated huge prizes that will be part of the hand-packed delivery. The package, in route overseas, will bring to the lucky recipient the keys to a brand new Ford F-150 truck.

Military brass, elected officials, active and retired service members and 4,000 volunteers gathered to celebrate the historic package assembled under a large tent adjacent to the California Army National Guard Armory. Three previous Operation Gratitude Milestone Package recipients were also in attendance: Sgt. Shaun Gallagher (300,000th package); Sgt. Eric Rodriguez (750,000th package) and Sgt. Samuel Mancilla (800,000th package). Six World War II Veterans were honored guests, including a Tuskegee Airman, Lt. Colonel Bob Friend, and Ms. Bea Cohen, the oldest living female World War II Veteran at 103 years old.

Alonside the pomp, two assembly lines were in full swing, producing 3,000 care packages in just two hours. In addition, the activities included a letter writing area with custom printed holiday cards for the troops.

Steve Politis, a 96 year old B-17 fighter pilot who was shot down in World War II, was visibly moved by the outpouring of respect for America’s Veterans. “I think about the many Operation Gratitude volunteer hands that have touched these one million care packages–either by assembling the boxes or making one of the items inside,” he offered. “There is no more beautiful way to express appreciation and let our Military know that people care.”

Operation Gratitude mails packages”This is an extraordinary day in the life of Operation Gratitude,” said Penny Alfonso, Volunteer and Community Service Coordinator. “I was at the very first Assembly Day in 2003 and it is breathtaking to witness this accomplishment by caring and patriotic Americans all across the country, whose goal is to say ‘Thank You’ to our Military.”

Always a highlight of Operation Gratitude milestone package celebrations, the reveal of the special gifts for the One Millionth Care Package brought gasps from the audience.


Upper Deck, producer of sports cards and authenticated sports memorabilia, presented a poster hand-addressed to the One Millionth Package Recipient, signed by Tiger Woods.

Best Buy revealed two Home Entertainment Systems–one each for the Millionth and the One Millionth & One packages. The systems included 55 and 32-inch Insignia TVs, as well as wireless speakers, digital cameras, a plethora of accessories, and iPads.

And, Living Essentials, the distributor of 5-hour ENERGY shots, unveiled their donation of a Ford F-150 pickup truck. The vehicle will be delivered to the soon-to-be-revealed service member upon returning home from deployment next Spring.

The secret overseas delivery of The One Millionth Care Package, containing symbolic keys to the Ford F-150 and certificates for the other gifts, will be revealed to the public in the coming week. You can watch their Facebook page here, and volunteer at their website:

What good news stories do you have?



Happy New Year 2014

Posted by on Jan 7, 2014 in Winter Snow Storm | Comments Off on Happy New Year 2014

The New Year rolled in and hopefully you enjoyed all the Family time, grazing on delicious meals and decedent deserts.



As a kid, and to this day I’ve always looked forward to this festive time of year celebrating Christmas and New Years with friends and family. I remember those Hickory Farms gift baskets and still like their sausages and that smoked Gouda.


As I’ve matured, I can’t say I still love those same spreadable cheeses that don’t need any refrigeration. Maybe its a sign of maturity. Now I love those fancy cheeses from the aged blue cheeses to the sharp provolone, and on really special occasions that Pecorino Foja de Noce. What kind of cheese is that?


Its made in small three pound wheels and wrapped in walnut leaves, then matured in humid caves to ensure that it does not dry out. The leaves impart a slight nuttiness, and the stone walls of the cave impart a slight earthy flavor. It goes great with rustic foods, like aged salami, prosciutto, roasted nuts, olive oil and bread. Yep, perfect for a special occasion.


Have you heard those phrases…

The only constant in life is change?
Chance Favors the prepared mind?


So just like my cheese tastes have changed what has changed for you last year?

Not sure what you can do to prepare for this New Year?

Watch this video above and sign up for our prep newsletter.



Vertical Indoor Farming in Chicago suburbs?

Posted by on Dec 30, 2013 in Hydroponics | Comments Off on Vertical Indoor Farming in Chicago suburbs?

Now that Winter has set into most of the Northern part of our Nation, many of us are missing the warm days of the growing season and the local fresh fruit and veges. We usually buy local or grow veges in our own yard. We also enjoy fresh fruit from the many fruit trees we have through-out our yard.

But what happens in the Winter? We need to rely on Winter veges’ (think cold frames that will grow greens and squash through January, sometimes year-round) and/or food that’s imported from far away like Argentina, Brazil, Chile, etc. It makes it tough for the people that want to remain as close to their food as possible.

Here’s an interesting story about Vertical Indoor Farming which might be an indication of where some farming may ‘migrate’ to in the future  that we read on  Huffington Post.


‘Mega’ Indoor Vertical Farm: Chicago Suburb New Home To Nation’s Largest Such Facility

BEDFORD PARK, Ill. — Farming in abandoned warehouses has become a hot trend in the Midwest – with varying degrees of success – as more entrepreneurs worldwide experiment with indoor growing systems in attempts to grow more food locally.

Now one facility, FarmedHere LLC in suburban Chicago, is attempting to take indoor warehouse farming to the “mega farm” level, in a region of the country known more for its massive hog, corn and soybean farms than for crops of boutique greens.

Here’s a run-down on the trend, this farm – and the challenges it and other indoor farms face.



In Chicago, Milwaukee and other urban areas, entrepreneurs have taken up residence in vacant buildings that have high ceilings and plenty of space. Often, these are called “vertical” farms because, within the buildings, farmers build tall structures with several levels of growing beds, often lined with artificial lights. With so much vacant space available, the cost of the property is often cheap, to buy or rent, though the power needed to run these facilities often is not.

Elsewhere, growers are incorporating greenhouses and natural light into their models – sometimes on rooftops, or in large fields.

Though farmers are experimenting with all kinds of crops, most have had success growing greens – herbs, various types of lettuce and “microgreens,” edible plants, such as beets and sunflowers, which are harvested when they are young and used like sprouts in salads and sandwiches.

“Aquaponic” farms, which also raise tilapia and other fish, use water circulated to the plants that is fertilized with the fish excrement. Often, these farms also sell the fish to grocers or restaurants.



“It’s different here than I’ve seen anywhere else, just the size, the sheer scale of it is very unique,” says Maximino Gonzalez, the master grower at FarmedHere LLC.

The company, based in Bedford Park, Ill., is finishing the first of four phases, with plans to expand by the end of next year to 150,000 square feet of vertical growing space.

Already, they say they are the largest vertical farm in the country, a claim experts who monitor the field believe to be true. The farm supplies local grocery with fresh basil, arugula and other greens.

Right now, the farm has two large structures with five to six levels of massive growing beds that are lit with fluorescent lighting.

One structure, where basil is grown, is “aquaponic.” Water underneath the plants – which rest in cutouts in styrofoam “floats” – circulates through a system from the plants to two large tanks of fish. The other structure, where arugula is grown, is “aeroponic,” with water misters underneath that spray the plants’ exposed roots.

A third structure is under construction and will be completed soon, owners at FarmedHere say.



Workers plant the seeds and grow seedlings on racks, then transfer into the growing systems.

After about a month, the crops – certified as “organic” by the USDA – are harvested and packaged by about a dozen workers in a cooling room at the facility. Early the morning after the harvests, workers use two vans to deliver those greens – mainly basil and arugula right now – to grocers in Chicago and suburbs, including Whole Foods and Mariano’s Fresh Market locations.

CEO Jolanta Hardej calls it “on-demand farming.”

“Let’s say that the demand is suddenly for various types of arugula or various types of mixed greens, or mini greens,” she says. “We could change the whole system … and pretty much within the next 14 to 28 days, we have a full grown plant, whatever the market requires.”



The biggest stumbling block for facilities like these remains power – the amount of electricity to run the lights that help the plants grow. Heating these massive spaces also can be costly.

Experts in the field say this will also be a big challenge for FarmedHere, because of its size.

A few other indoor farms in Wisconsin and Chicago have gone out of business, or are struggling to stay open.

“It’s hard to get there for sure,” says Sylvia Bernstein, an aquaponics supplier based in Boulder, Colo., who blogs about the trend. “There are a lot of people working on it.”

Some growers are experimenting with solar, wind and methane as ways to generate the power. Others are supplementing artificial light with natural greenhouse or window lighting.

Hardej says FarmedHere is looking at methane options. Though she declined to elaborate for competitive reasons, she said the eventual goal is for the facility to be self-sustaining.

Many believe indoor farms that rely on artificial light will become even more viable as energy-efficient LED lighting improves and becomes more affordable.

But Dickson Despommier, a retired Columbia University microbiologist who wrote the book “The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century,” says powering farms is still the biggest hurdle for the industry – one that many farmers are often reluctant to talk about publicly.

“A lot of them will tuck their head under their wings and say, `Wait and see,'” he says, noting that he’s anxious to see large indoor farming models in Japan that use both artificial and natural light. He says entrepreneurs in Germany also are experimenting with flickering lights that use less power but still emit enough light to grow plants.

“In another two or three years, this will shake out,” Despommier says. “And we’ll see which systems work, and which don’t.”

View a video of the indoor farm here:


Martha Irvine is an AP national writer. She can be reached at mirvine(at) or at