August 28, 2008

Green Power through Renewable Energy Certificates

By Mary Campbell, Extension Director, Urban Sustainability Agent, Pinellas County Extension

Both the Democratic and the Republican Parties have vowed to make their upcoming national conventions more sustainable or “green.” Energy use is a big part of this and, since there is not a renewable energy source available – like solar or wind energy – they intend to buy renewable energy certificates (RECs- pronounced: rěk) to offset the conventional energy used. You can’t typically pipe-in solar or wind power directly, but any event can offset the emissions generated from regular grid power by purchasing renewable energy certificates.

Renewable energy relies on fuel sources that restore themselves over short periods of time and do not diminish. Such fuel sources include the sun, wind, moving water, organic plant and waste material (biomass), and the earth’s heat (geothermal). More than 50% of retail customers in the United States now have an option of purchasing a green power product directly from their electricity supplier.

Choosing to purchase green power supports increased development of renewable energy sources which in turn may reduce the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Traditional electricity production can be a significant source of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Buying green power can provide valuable benefits such as: avoiding carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, reducing some types of air pollution, supporting the use of renewable energy and demonstrating civic leadership. RECs provide flexibility to support green power when a green power product may not be available from the local energy provider.

Renewable Energy Certificates also known as Green Tags, Renewable Energy Credits, or Tradable Renewable Certificates (TRCs), represent units of power such as kilowatt hours or megawatt hours. They are priced like any commodity, but usually based on the difference between the traditional electric rate and the green energy production cost. The cost is in addition to the cost of conventional power. In the Tampa Bay area, TECO has a renewable energy program. For each five dollar block you purchase, Tampa Electric will distribute 200 kWh of electricity generated from renewable sources to the electric grid that supports your home or business. A typical home uses about 920 kWh per month. Check on-line for the many programs available that offer Renewable Energy Certificates for both home and business. Green energy costs will decrease with improved technology and greater production. Energy conservation is still the most practical and immediate way to reduce the impacts of energy production, so get your energy audit and conserve power whenever possible.

Buying Clean Electricity
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
EPA Green Power locator
The Guide to Purchasing Green Power
Green Pricing
TECO Renewable Energy Program
Progress Energy

August 26, 2008

“Break the Fast” with a Healthy Breakfast

By Patti Neary, Education Instructor, Pinellas County Extension

School is in session and now is the perfect time to get you and your children in a regular routine of eating a healthy breakfast every morning. “Breaking the fast” after an overnight sleep is essential for children to replenish their bodies with the food and nutrients they need to learn and grow. Here are some great A+ reasons to get the day started with something nutritious and delicious to eat.

Attention: Children who eat a healthy breakfast on a regular basis are less likely to be cranky, tired, and distracted during morning instruction. Eating healthy enables them to concentrate better, pay attention for longer periods of time, listen better and also gives them energy needed for physical education activities. Children and adolescents are able to concentrate solely on learning and not be distracted by hunger.

Attendance: Children who eat a nutritious breakfast on a regular basis are absent less frequently, have improved punctuality, miss less instruction, and are less likely to have health issues.

Academic Achievement: Children who eat a good breakfast show improved cognitive function, memory, attention and recall, and perform better and have higher scores on achievement tests.

Attitude: Eating a nourishing breakfast each day can reduce the risk of obesity in children and adolescents, helping them to feel better about themselves and their appearance.

Not only is breakfast important for your child, it also is essential for you too. Be a positive role model and join your child and eat breakfast together when you can. You too will experience the benefits of eating a nourishing breakfast each day. The key to getting a good start in the morning and having time to eat is keeping breakfast simple and easy. Breakfast doesn’t have to be elaborate. Stock your pantry and have food items readily available that can be quickly put together. Whole grain foods such as cereal, bread and bagels, milk, cheese, yogurt, and fruit are good choices. Below are some delicious breakfast ideas and recipes. Remember also to check and see if the school your child attends provides breakfast.

Quick and healthy breakfast ideas:

  • Split a bagel. Layer each half with peanut butter and raisins. Bring along a carton of milk.

  • Warm up leftover pizza and serve with fruit juice.

  • Create a breakfast parfait with layers of fruit yogurt, sliced fresh fruit, and crunchy whole grain cereal.

  • Swirl applesauce and raisins into a packet of hot oatmeal. Serve with a cup of milk.

  • Microwave a frozen pancake, spread with peanut butter, top with sliced bananas, and roll it up.

  • Combine a soft pretzel, string cheese, and fresh fruit.

  • Layer one or two slices of turkey breast and a slice of cheese on a tortilla. Serve with a piece of fruit.

  • Pair a container of yogurt, half a bagel, and fruit juice.

  • Combine in blender until frothy: ½ cup lemon yogurt, ½ cup milk, a dash of vanilla extract, and two ice cubes. Complement with a slice of whole grain toast.

Quick and healthy breakfast recipes:

Yummy Banana Split
1 banana, split lengthwise
½ cup low-fat yogurt (any flavor)
1 large handful granola or chopped nuts
Peel and split banana lengthwise down the center. Place in a bowl and top with yogurt, granola, or nuts. Enjoy!

Strawberry Breakfast Sandwich

A strawberry breakfast sandwich sounds strange, but this one isn't! English muffins topped with cheese, honey, and strawberries make a delicious start to the day.
8 oz. Neufchatel cheese or low-fat cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
4 English muffins, split and toasted
2 cups (10 oz.) sliced strawberries
In food processor, process cheese, honey and zest until well mixed, or mix in bowl with wooden spoon. Spread 1 tablespoon cheese mixture on cut side of 1 muffin half; top with 1/4 cup strawberries. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make 8 open-faced sandwiches. Quick tip: Make cheese mixture ahead and store in refrigerator.

Strawberry Breakfast Parfait:

3 tablespoons of graham cracker cereal or graham crackers
broken in pieces¼ cup nonfat vanilla yogurt⅛ cup strawberries, stemmed and
sliced 1 mint sprig (optional)
In each cup, layer 3
tablespoons cereal, 1/4 cup yogurt and 1/8 cup strawberries. Repeat layers. Top
with a mint sprig.

Super Sippin” Smoothie

1 16 oz. container nonfat plain or vanilla yogurt
1 banana
1 10 oz. package frozen sweetened strawberries, partially thawed
¾ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons wheat germ, oat bran or rolled oats
Place all ingredients in blender container. Blend 30
seconds to 1 minute or until smooth. Pour into glasses. Garnish with fresh

Resource Links:

August 18, 2008

Family Mealtime: How Common Is It in Your Home?

By Janice Wade-Miller, Education Instructor, Pinellas County Extension

“Dinner’s ready. Come and get it!” How often are those words called out in your home? Can you remember the last time your family sat down and enjoyed dinner together? Even our children’s daily schedules are filled to the brim with music lessons, soccer practice, play rehearsals, and the work schedules of our teens. We know through research that there are great benefits for our children. I will share some of those benefits in a moment. But how do you go about making family meals a common occurrence without it seeming like a real chore?

In today’s fast-paced world, it can be tough---even nearly impossible---to plan, prepare, and share family meals, and then be relaxed enough to enjoy them. Try these steps to schedule family meals and make them enjoyable for everyone who pulls up a chair.

1. PLAN Look over the calendar to choose a time when everyone can be there. Figure out which obstacles are getting in the way of more family meals — busy schedules, no supplies in the house, no time to cook. Ask for the family's help for ideas on how these roadblocks can be removed. For instance, figure out a way to get groceries purchased for a family meal. Maybe your teen clerks in the neighborhood grocery store. Or if time to cook is the problem, try having the family do some prep work on weekends or even completely preparing a dish ahead of time and putting it in the freezer.

2. PREPARE Once you have all your supplies on hand, involve the kids in preparing the meal. Recruiting younger kids can mean a little extra work, but it's often worth it. Have the younger kids put plates on the table, toss the salad, pour beverages, fold the napkins, or be a "taster". Older kids can get ingredients, wash produce, mix and stir, and serve. If you have teens around, consider assigning them a night to cook, with you as the helper. For those nights, give them free reign to do the shopping and choose the foods they want to make. Does that sound like fun? Some of the conversation around the table that night is sure to be a lively discussion of their choices for the meal.

3. ENJOY Make your time at the table pleasant and a chance for everyone to decompress from the day and enjoy being together as a family. They may be starving, but have your children wait until everyone is seated before digging in. Create a moment of calm before the meal begins to give a chance to say grace, thank the cook, wish everyone a good meal, or raise a glass of milk in a toast. You're setting the mood and modeling good manners and patience at the same time.

There are good reasons to make family meals a habit and a tradition that your children will always remember about growing up. Here are just a few of the many well-researched reasons to make family meals a regular and anticipated event:

Reason #1: Helps your families stay connected
Conversations during the meal provide opportunities for the family to bond, plan, connect, and learn from one another. Ask everyone to share their favorite part or biggest challenge of the day. Share your news too. Discuss an activity the family can do together and then put it on the calendar. Family meals foster warmth, security and love, as well as feelings of belonging. It can be a unifying experience for all.

Reason #2: Expands their world… one food at a time
Children can be encouraged to try new foods during family meals. Remember that it can take 8-10 exposures to a new food before it is accepted, so be patient. Trying a new food expands your child’s knowledge, experience and skill. Use your imagination and make a simple meal from another country, select a new vegetable from your local farmer’s market, or have your children select a new recipe from one of your cookbooks, a web site, or the newspaper.

Reason #3: Prevents destructive behaviors
Research shows that frequent family dinners (five or more a week), are associated with lower rates of smoking, drinking and illegal drug use in pre-teens and teenagers when compared to families that eat together two or fewer times per week. Even as older children’s schedules get more complicated, it is important to make an effort to eat meals together. Scheduling is a must.

Reason #4: Improves grades
Children do better in school when they eat more meals with their parents and family. Teens that eat dinner four or more times per week with their families have higher academic performance compared with those who eat with their families two or fewer times per week.Reason # 5: Saves moneyMeals purchased away from home cost two to four times more than meals prepared at home. At the present time the restaurant industry’s share of the total food dollar is more than 46%. Due to scheduling, commitments, and activities, families eat out several times each week. It’s time to bring the family back to the dinner table. Sharing dinner together gives everyone a sense of identity. It can help ease day-to-day conflicts, as well as establish traditions and memories that can last a lifetime and be passed down through the generations.

To give you a head start on ideas for your family mealtimes, click on each of these two links to see an easy, nutritious and fun family meal for adults and kids of all ages. You don’t have to bother to make different foods for grown-ups and for children. Everyone will love these:
Low-Fat Sloppy Joes

Sweet Potatoes with Warm Black Bean Salad

Click on this link to see a short video making a vegetable and cheese quesadilla meal for parents and children of all ages, all the way down to infants:

Kids Health Web site

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Web site

Fresh from Florida Kids Web site

Recipes and

August 11, 2008

Timely Gardening Tips for Midsummer

Andy Wilson, Departmental Training Specialist/Horticulturist

Twig Borers- A common and often alarming sight to homeowners is the appearance of dead branch tips, about one to three feet long on trees such as oaks, red maples, magnolias and others at this time of year. Close inspection of branch at about the point where the dead wood begins sometimes reveals a clue to the problem: a small round hole about the diameter of a pin. This is evidence of twig borers. These small beetles bore into the twigs or smaller branches to feed and reproduce. The beetles introduce a fungus commonly called ambrosial fungus which grows inside the twig and on which the beetles feed. They also feed on some of the tissues of the twig or branch itself. The fungus and the feeding damage cause the twig to wilt and die. Fortunately, the damage is usually not life threatening to healthy, established trees. Where possible, prune out the dead or dying branches back to healthy wood. When small dying branches appear without any evidence to twig borers, other possible causes, including root rots and fungal dieback diseases, may need to be investigated.

Gray Leaf Spot of St. Augustinegrass- One of the most common diseases of St. Augustinegrass during the summer months is gray leaf spot. As the name implies, the most visible symptom of the disease is the appearance spots on the grass blades, initially olive-green to brown, later growing in size and becoming tan to brown with dark brown margins. When many spots develop on a single blade it may wither and die. The grass may appear thin due to this damage. Conditions that encourage the development of gray leaf spot include warm temperatures, frequent rainfall or irrigation, applications of quickly available nitrogen and compacted soils. St. Augustinegrass that has been treated with atrazine herbicide is more likely to be attacked by gray leaf spot.

To manage gray leaf spot, don’t provide the conditions, as mentioned above, that favor it. Avoid applications of quickly available nitrogen. Keep in mind that often in the summer the less green than normal color of an otherwise healthy lawn can often be improved by applying iron. One way to supply iron is by spraying a solution of iron sulfate (2 ounces in 3 to 5 gallons of water per 1000 square feet of lawn area). Chelated iron (applied at the label rate) is another option. For serious outbreaks of gray leaf spot it may necessary to apply a fungicide. Products containing azoxystrobin, propiconazole, thiophanate methyl or trifloxystrobin are usually effective against this disease. More information on gray leaf spot can be found here:

Summer Care of Christmas Cactus- Christmas cactus is one of the most rewarding cacti to grow, producing beautiful flowers at the ends of pendant stems usually sometime between Thanksgiving and Easter. They can be grown outdoors in pots or hanging baskets in our climate most of the year. However, these cacti are susceptible to root and stem rot diseases if they are over-watered and during the summer rainy season it is a good idea to either move them to an area with overhead protection from the rain or to remove the saucers from the pots so that water does not stand in them and keep the soil waterlogged.

Drought Tolerant Bedding Plants- For summer color that is also drought tolerant consider these:

Globe amaranth produces round, clover-like flower heads that feel like crepe paper. Purple is the most common color but there are also varieties with red, pink or white flowers. Height varies from about one to 2 feet depending on the variety. Glove amaranth prefers full sun and is nematode tolerant.

Purslane is low growing with fleshy stems and small fleshy leaves. It produces showy single or double flowers in a range of colors from white and pastel pinks to sunny yellows to intense oranges, reds, maroons and other colors. It blooms best in full sun and thrives on heat. It is easy to propagate from cuttings. The flowers usually close during the intense heat of mid-afternoon. Barring a significant freeze event during the winter, purslane will often live over for more than one year.

Moss rose or portulaca is a close relative of purslane. It has long, cylindrical leaves but flowers that are similar to those of purslane in shape and in color range. Like purslane, the flowers usually close in the afternoon.

Vinca or periwinkle is a traditional favorite for summer planting in Florida. Breeding work in recent years has broadened the flower color range available and has improved the growth habit with some smaller, fuller branching varieties. Vinca does best in full sun. It can be prone to root and stem rots and fungal blights if overwatered or if planted in poorly drained soil.

More information on bedding plants can be found here:

Trees and Potential Storm Damage- If you are concerned about the health of trees in your landscape and about the possible susceptibility to storm damage it’s a good idea to consult a certified arborist. To obtain this certification an arborist must pass an exam to demonstrate their knowledge of trees and tree care practices. The arborist certification program is conducted by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) and the organization’s website includes a search engine that can be used to find certified arborists by city or zip code:

Snowbush Spanworms- Snowbush spanworms have become a fairly common sight on snowbush plants (Breynia disticha) in our area. The small caterpillars are colorful with black markings on a yellow background. They feed on the leaves, sometimes completely defoliating the plants. Usually the plants will regrow following this damage. If populations of the caterpillars are high and food is limited they may even feed on the twigs and bark. There have been some reports of snowbushes being killed by this more serious damage. Sprays of products containing spinosad or Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) will usually control them.

August 9, 2008

Salmonella Saintpaul Outbreak

FDA Update as of August 1, 2008

At Pinellas County Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences wants you to be aware of all potential food hazards so that you can make knowledgeable decisions about the food you buy for your family. In an effort to keep you informed, we are releasing the following FDA tomato update. Please follow the FDA’s instructions so that you are not affected by this foodborne illness.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising consumers that jalapeño and Serrano peppers grown in the United States are not connected with the current Salmonella St. Paul outbreak and consumers may feel free to eat them without concern of contamination.

The FDA's advisory to avoid eating raw jalapeño and raw serrano peppers, and foods that contain them, applies only to these types of peppers grown, harvested or packed in Mexico.

In addition to domestically grown raw jalapeño and raw serrano peppers, commercially canned, pickled and cooked jalapeño and serrano peppers from any geographic location also are not connected with the current Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak.

Laboratory testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has confirmed that both a sample of serrano pepper and a sample of irrigation water collected by agency investigators on a farm in the state of Tamaulipas, Mexico (business address is in Nuevo Leon, Mexico) contain Salmonella Saintpaul with the same genetic fingerprint as the strain of bacteria that is causing the current outbreak in the United States.

FDA is working with state regulatory agencies and food industry groups representing restaurants, grocery stores, and wholesalers to ensure that this new advisory is clearly understood by everyone. The FDA will continue to refine its consumer guidance as the agency's investigation continues.

FDA's advisory to the public is based on evidence gathered by the intensive investigation that has been ongoing for several weeks to find the source of the contamination. Information from FDA's traceback investigation, laboratory test results, and harvesting dates, matched with the dates that people became ill, have combined to indicate that the contaminated jalapeno and Serrano peppers originated in Mexico.

If you have any questions or concerns on this issue, please call us at 582-2100 and we will do our best to help you.

For the latest information on the number of outbreak cases and where they occurred, see the CDC's webpage on the outbreak: Investigation of Outbreak of Infections Caused by Salmonella Saintpaul (CDC) [en Español]

August 8, 2008

4-H Delivery Methods for 4-H Participation

Jean Rogalsky, 4-H Youth Development Agent

When first learning about the Pinellas County 4-H Program, many people wonder how all these very different sounding programs could all be 4-H. Indeed, Pinellas County 4-H offers a number of ways in which a family can be involved in 4-H. These options are referred to as delivery methods. These delivery methods include 4-H Community Clubs, 4-H in the Classroom, summer camp, 4-H Afterschool, and special interest groups. However different they may sound, all delivery methods employ the experiential learning model; that is, youth both experience and process an activity through five steps. These five steps are:
Ø Experience- Youth perform or do the activity.
Ø Share - Youth describe what happened.
Ø Process - Youth determine what was important and identify common themes.
Ø Generalize - Youth relate the experience to their daily lives.
Ø Apply - Youth apply knowledge gained to a new situation.

This means that any youth in a Pinellas 4-H program will receive the educational and youth development benefits of 4-H, as all 4-H delivery methods follow the model of a 4-H community club.

4-H community clubs are one of the most effective delivery methods. Community clubs are organized groups of youth who meet on a regular basis and are supported by adult volunteer leaders with a planned program for the year. Community clubs have the advantage of long-term sequential learning events under the direction of a caring adult. Youth select subject areas in which they have interest and use project books, most of which have been nationally reviewed. Community clubs are the primary delivery method of 4-H throughout Florida.

4-H in the Classroom provides a planned sequence of learning experiences of six hours or more delivered by teachers, Extension staff, and trained volunteers. The curricula provided to the teachers contain lessons using the experiential learning model. In Pinellas County, Embryology, Tropicana Public Speaking, Pizza Garden: An Agricultural Adventure, and Earth Connections are the curricula offered for 4-H in the Classroom.

Summer camp is the most intensive delivery method for learning life skills. 4-H residential camp is an overnight planned educational experience of group living. Pinellas County’s summer camp at Camp Ocala is a weeklong experience where youth learn social and decision-making skills, in addition to the subject matter of their camp classes. Teen camp counselors practice leadership and communication skills. Evaluation results indicate that 4-H campers and counselors apply these skills to their lives after they return home.

In Pinellas County, the 4-H Afterschool program is a partnership with the YMCA of the Suncoast and is part of the YMCA’s after school program. The participants become 4-H members upon enrollment and are lead through a series of activities in a club meeting format. The activities used are part of a curriculum that has been adapted especially for the Afterschool program. At the end of each meeting, the youth take time to share and reflect on the day’s activities and record their thoughts in a record book, similar to a journal. The club leader is a YMCA staff person who has been trained in 4-H youth development.

4-H Special Interest groups meet for a specific learning experience of six hours or more. The teaching is led by Extension staff or trained volunteers. The educational activities emphasize hands on learning. The membership of these meetings are not restricted by club. Often, a youth’s first experience with 4-H is through a Special Interest group. Some Special Interest groups include a community service project. For example, a clothing construction group applied their newly developed skills to sewing quilts, walker caddies, and soft toys. Upon completion, the items were donated to local charities and support groups. In Pinellas County, Forestry, Consumer Choices, and the Marine Ecology Event are the main Special Interest groups. After several weeks of meetings, field trips, and study sessions, the groups participate in state level competitions.

While community club members regularly join Special Interest groups, it is important to note that all 4-H members are eligible to register for a variety of competitive and non-competitive programs and events that are offered at the county, district, and state level. A 4-H member in any 4-H delivery method should ask their adult leader for information on how to register. A listing and description of many of these district and state activities can be found at:

In summary, each 4-H delivery method will be characterized by the following:
Ø Utilization of the experiential learning model
Ø 4-H programs, curricula, and procedures are based in research
Ø 4-H programs, curricula, and procedures are developmentally appropriate
Ø 4-H programs provide access to county, district, and state opportunities
Ø 4-H membership is open to all youth
Ø Encouragement of active involvement and participation
Ø Volunteers and staff provide a critical support system

References: Understanding 4-H Youth Development Delivery
Knowing the Basics about 4-H Clubs,%20Lesson%2010.pdf

August 6, 2008

How to Assemble a Portable Kitchen for Hurricane Season

Lisa Dozois – Master Food & Nutrition Volunteer, Pinellas County Extension

A kitchen you can take anywhere sounds like the long-awaited answer to the nightly dinner dilemma. Having around-the-clock access would definitely make it easy to prepare meals no matter where you are. Maybe one day, but for now, I will show you how to put together a portable kitchen for those times when today’s modern conveniences are temporarily out of reach.

Unless you are the adventurous type and spend a lot of time outdoors, you have probably never considered the need for a portable kitchen. Not being much of a camper, I never thought about one until my house lost power during a particularly bad storm. That is when I realized, if you live in Florida, a portable kitchen is as important a part of your hurricane kit as your battery operated weather radio.

When the power goes out during this year’s hurricane season, or anytime during the year, you will be glad you took time to assemble a portable kitchen in advance. And even if you do not lose power, with a pre-assembled portable kitchen at the ready, you’re one step closer to surviving the great outdoors!

Everything including the kitchen sink
Today’s portable kitchens really do have it all, including kitchen sinks. You could easily spend hundreds of dollars on a pop-up workspace with all the storage, cook tops, and hook-ups you could ever need. If you will get a lot of use out of it, consider spending the money. But for most of us, that’s overkill and the top of the picnic or patio table will do just fine.

Having the right tools makes any job easier, even the job of cooking without electricity. Just remember that without electricity, everything in your portable kitchen needs to operate manually.

Let’s break the portable kitchen down into three tasks: meal prep, cooking and eating, and cleanup.

Meal preparation

  • Disinfecting hand wipes (or soap and wash cloth)

  • Can and bottle openers

  • Vegetable peeler

  • Utility knife (If possible, pack an assortment of knives for slicing and dicing and be sure to protect the sharp edges before packing)

  • Kitchen scissors (a great multi-purpose tool)

  • Whisk

  • Cheese grater

  • Cutting board

  • Condiments and spices (especially salt, pepper, sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, ketchup and mustard)

  • Cooking oil

  • Regular and slotted mixing/serving spoons

  • Heavy-duty aluminum foil

  • Clear plastic wrap

  • Set of measuring spoons

  • Set of measuring cups

  • Timer

  • Corkscrew
  • Mixing bowl (to save space, substitute a saucepan for mixing)
  • Plastic tablecloths or sheeting to cover prep/eating surfaces

Cooking and eating
It is one thing to have space to prep food and clean up after meals, but what about the actual cooking area? Before you can finish assembling your portable kitchen, it is important to know what you will be cooking on. A quick call to the campground can provide this information. But if you plan on using your portable kitchen at home during emergencies, you will need a grill of some sort. Making sure you have a heat source, powered either by propane or white gas or with charcoal briquettes, cannot to be overlooked. Whatever you choose to cook on give it a trial run when you are not under pressure, so you know how to work it later when it is time to banish those hunger pains!

  • Wood or charcoal and starter fluid or portable stove plus extra propane/butane canisters

  • Matches stored in a waterproof container

  • Lighter

  • Cans of sterno

  • Fire extinguisher

  • Heavy-duty pots and pans

  • Spatula

  • Tongs
  • Colander
  • Pot holders (can do double-duty as trivets)

  • Mess kit for each person OR enough plastic or disposable plates, bowls, cups, and utensils to go around

  • Coffee pot (can also be used to heat water)


  • Dishcloths or sponges

  • Dishtowels

  • Dish washing detergent

  • Pot scrubber

  • Sandwich-sized, quart-sized and gallon-sized storage bags or plastic storage containers

  • Plastic garbage bags
  • Roll of paper towels
  • Disinfectant

  • Bleach

  • Plastic bins for washing dishes

With your portable kitchen and a bit of ingenuity and patience, you really can prepare meals anytime of day or night, even in the absence of electricity. Before you go out and buy these portable kitchen essentials, look around the house for extra supplies. Then shop at yard sales and discount stores for everything else you need.

Once you have gathered all the supplies, you will need some place to store everything. If you’re a skilled packer, you can organize most of these supplies right inside the plastic bin you will later use for cleanup. If that does not work, get a larger-sized waterproof storage bin with locking top. Even a suitcase or tote bag will work. Then find a place to store your portable kitchen until you need it.

When you’re cooking outdoors with your portable kitchen, always remember the most basic rule: Safety First. Have fun and bon appétit!


August 4, 2008

Bee Aware of Africanized Bees

By Pam Brown, Urban Horticulture Extension Agent

With the news lately of Africanized Honey Bees (AHBs) attacking and killing a dog in Largo, you need to be aware of the hazards they pose and what you should do in case you come in contact with these aggressive bees. You may also hear these bees referred to as “Killer Bees”.

Did you know that honey bees are not native in the United States? Honey bees were brought into this country in the 1600’s by European settlers. With their gentle nature making them easy to manage, they soon became one of our most economically beneficial insects. However, due to the escape of the aggressive Africanized Honey Bees in Brazil in the 1950’s, we now see these bees established in Pinellas County and much of Florida. AHBs breed and compete with the European strains of honey bees that normally inhabit our state. Because Florida's AHB population is increasing, it is important to become familiar with AHBs and their behavior.

There have been a number of swarms and hives of AHB captured and exterminated in the Tampa Bay area. Commissioner Charles Bronson says, “it has become clear that the Africanized honey bee population has grown and will continue to grow in Florida due to its numerous pathways into the state and the lack of effective eradication products or techniques.” If you have a swarm of honey bees on your property, they must be exterminated by a trained pest control company due to their dangerous nature. Africanized Honey Bees and European Honey Bees (EHB) are the same genus and species. They look alike, so you cannot tell them apart, and they contain the same venom. Since both of these bees have the same venom, if you are allergic to EHB stings, you will be allergic to AHB stings.

Like most animals, Africanized bees react defensively only when their home is threatened. If pursued, the best thing to do is run away as quickly as possible, covering your head, neck, and mouth. Africanized honey bees will fiercely protect an area around their nest and will chase a perceived threat as far as 300 yards – the length of three football fields. These bees can sense vibrations from equipment like lawn mowers, weed eaters, sirens, and all terrain vehicles. They will then respond quickly to these disturbances. Initially they visually see the victim, then they target the exhalation of carbon dioxide, attacking the mouth, nose, eyes, and ears of the victim. By pulling your shirt up over your head, you can protect your head and neck, which are the most sensitive.

Obviously, those who are most at risk during an attack are the elderly, children, handicapped persons and pets that are confined and cannot get away. Once alarmed, these bees can attack any human and/or animal in their way. This makes it very important to have any hives found exterminated by a trained pest control operator.

Please become familiar with the AHB behaviors listed below:

  • AHB are more defensive and will defend their nests with less provocation and more bees over longer distances.

  • AHB swarm as many as sixteen times per year – EHB swarm only once or twice a year. Swarming is the behavior that occurs when bees are looking for a new nest site.

  • AHB are not selective of nesting sites – they will quickly inhabit empty spaces, holes or cavities, or will build exposed nests. EHB are more selective and prefer drier sites three to four feet above ground.

  • Bees release an “alarm pheromone” after they sting which signals other bees to come and attack. In the case of AHB, this could be the entire hive.

  • Bee swarms are not likely to attack because they do not have a home or young to protect.

  • Established colonies that are producing wax, honey, and rearing young present the greatest potential stinging threats.

  • With AHB, it is extremely important not to swat or wavy your arms at the bees – swatting may provoke the bees even more.

When outdoors, be aware of your environment and take precautions to protect yourself against stinging bees.

  • Have a plan and communicate it with your family for avoiding/responding to stinging insects.

  • In case of allergy, have a bee sting kit available.

  • Eliminate potential nesting sites.

  • Remain alert for bees. Look around for bees before using power equipment like lawn mowers and weed eaters – vibration and noise excites bees.

  • If bees begin to chase you, run away in a straight line, cover your head, particularly your nose and mouth and hide in a car or building. A few bees coming in with you will not be as dangerous as the large number waiting outside. AHB will follow for about the length of three football fields. Do not jump into a pool or other water – the bees will wait longer than you can hold your breath.

  • Remove a stinger by scraping it out with a fingernail or credit card; squeezing the stinger will release more venom.

  • Contact a local pest control operator (PCO) to remove the nest – do not attempt to remove it yourself. This link takes you to the listing of PCOs trained to remove AHBs: This is an Excel file so you need to scroll at the bottom for Pinellas County.

  • See a doctor if breathing is difficult, if you are stung multiple times, or if you are allergic to bee stings.

Additional information can be found at the UF/IFAS Extension web site: or the
Florida Bureau of Plant and Apiary Inspection web site: Honey Bee FAQs can be accessed on the web at:
You may also call the Pinellas County Extension help line at 727 582-2110 Tuesday through Thursday from 9 a.m. – 12 N and 1 – 4 p.m.