May 27, 2009

Beat the Heat! Attend Pinellas County Extension’s June Classes

By: Margaret Deller

Pinellas County Extension offers residents a wide variety of classes to help them make sustainable decisions. Be sure to check out our lunch break on-line classes, Solutions in 30.

The classes being offered in June are:

Solutions in 30:
June 3rd - Managing Stress in Tough Times
June 10th - Managing Money in Tough Times
June 17th - In Debt? . . . Tips for Getting Back in the Black
June 24th - Save Money By going Green

Lawn and Garden:
June 10th 2 pm and 6:30 pm - Good Bugs, Bad Bugs
June 20th - Compost Happens
June 23rd - How to Keep a Nice Yard and Conserve Water
June 30th - Palms – Keeping Them Healthy

Sustainable Living:
June 4th - Green Home Webinar
June 16th - Green Purchasing Webinar
June 18th – Lighting Your way the Energy Efficiency Webinar
June 24th – Green Office Webinar
June 30th – Green Home Webinar

Families Cooking Together:
Starting June 11th – Step into the Kitchen: Families Cooking Together

You can register for classes on-line at Please look for the “Online Class Registration” button on the right hand side near the top of the page.

May 26, 2009

Aisle by Aisle Savings at the Grocery Store

In these tough economic times, saving money where you can is important. Since food is a flexible expense, there are some things you can do to save money at the grocery store. Here are just a few.

General tips:
Shop the perimeter
. Fill your cart with the basics first—vegetables, fruit, protein foods and milk. These foods are nearly always found around the perimeter.

Arrange your list according to the store layout. This strategy is a big time saver as it prevents backtracking.

Look up, look down. Since food companies pay for prime shelving which are those at eye level look to higher or lower shelves for less expensive versions of a product.

Try the store brand. Sometimes the only difference between store brand and name brand is the label; sometimes it’s more. The only way to know if you’ll like a product is to try it.

Concentrate on buying the food, not the convenience. You can save money when you buy the basic ingredients in your recipes and meals and skip the prepackaged products.

Don’t venture down the “snack food aisle”. Stay out of the aisles where you find the empty calorie snacks like potato chips, crackers, candy, and soda. These items can put a dent in your family food budget, and provide little nutrition in return.

Breads and Grains
Look for whole grain
Whole grain products may cost a few cents more but the added nutritional value makes them a smart buy.
• Choose products with whole grain listed as the first in the ingredient: whole
wheat, whole rye, whole grain corn, whole oats, graham flour, oatmeal, brown
rice, and bulgur.
• Don’t choose by color alone. Caramel coloring may be
added to give
some bread products the appearance of being whole
• Look for products that have at least 3 grams of fiber per

Dairy Foods
Compare unit prices—larger containers tend to be the best buy but only if you use this amount.

Add your own fruit to yogurt. Fruit-flavored varieties may cost more and include jam-like fruit that adds extra sugar. Also, the sweetened fruit replaces some of the yogurt in the carton so you get less of the calcium-rich yogurt.

Protect your diary food investment by keeping the refrigerator at 40 degrees.

Fruits and Vegetables
Purchase fruit and vegetables in season for best price and quality. Consider frozen or canned at other times of the year.

Freeze extra fruit and vegetables if time and space allow.

Choose the smaller size when buying apples, oranges, bananas, and other individual fruits that are sold by the pound. The smaller size fruits are closer to the 1 cup serving size which helps with portion control.

Pre-cut fruit and vegetables are at least 3 times more expensive and spoil faster.

Meats and Other Protein Foods
Check store ads to see what meats are on sale and plan your meals around them.

Stock up if you have the freezer space. Meat and poultry can be frozen in their original supermarket packaging. If storing more than a month or two, place the store package inside a freezer-weight plastic bag or overwrap it with airtight heavy-duty foil, plastic wrap, or freezer paper; label with contents and date.

Consider using canned or dried beans and peanut butter. Plant protein is generally less expensive than animal protein.

For other money saving tips, check out these publications.

May 18, 2009

Rain Harvesting

By Dale W. Armstrong, Coordinator Florida Yards & Neighborhoods, Pinellas County Extension

The interest in rain harvesting just amazes me! Yes, we have filled up our rain barrel workshops at Extension in prior years, but never as far in advance as this year. All remaining workshops scheduled this year are full already. The extreme drought our region of Florida is experiencing is obviously a contributing factor as well as, I believe, more and more folks adopting sustainable lifestyles and the movement towards “living green”.

For those of you who the term Rain Harvesting is not totally familiar, let me explain. The basic concept is nothing more than several components working together to collect and store rainwater from your roof. The stored water is then used instead of the potable (drinking) water that you may now be using to water your landscape, or for other outdoor uses.

Components of a simple rain harvesting system are the catchment area (your roof), conveyance (your gutters and downspouts), and a storage system (rain barrel of approximately 55 gallon capacity). Rain barrels are typically used to fill watering cans or jugs, or in some cases a short hose may be used. But, keep in mind that since this is gravity-feed only, water will flow slowly from a hose.

A more complex system replaces a barrel with a cistern that hold hundreds or thousands of gallons. It may include filtration and a pump with a distribution system for hoses or sprinkler system attachment. A cistern may be installed above ground or below. Each location has advantages and disadvantages that must be compared to decide which is the better solution for your situation. Unless you are a seriously competent do-it-yourselfer, this more elaborate system is best left to the professionals, such as a cistern installation specialist and/or a certified irrigation contractor. Depending upon your installation you may need to obtain a permit for a cistern. And of course, don’t forget to check for any restrictions that your homeowner association may have.

Rain Harvesting may be the solution to how you can reduce or eliminate the use of potable water for landscape use. Since the workshops are full here at Pinellas County Extension, please see the resources below to help you learn more about rain harvesting as well as a list of local businesses that sell barrels.

Do It Yourself - Recycled Barrel Sources
  1. Thomas King - 13042 Gibson Lane - Odessa - (813)920-8112
  2. D & C Brothers (Chris) - Hercules Road - Clearwater - (727)447-1733
  3. Don’s Marine Salvage - 5601 126 Ave. N. - Clearwater - (727)576-8577

Complete Rain Barrels
  1. Twigs ‘n Leaves Nursery - 1013 Dr. MLK Blvd. S. - St. Petersburg - (727)822-5400
  2. Wilcox Nursery - 12501 Indian Rocks Rd. - Largo - (727)595-2073
  3. Carroll Brothers Nursery - 4950 38th Ave North - St. Petersburg - (727)527-5418
  4. Country Club Nursery - 9850 Starkey Road - Largo - (727)397-4438
  5. Dolin’s Garden Center - 801 62nd avenue N. - St. Petersburg - (727)525-3434


May 11, 2009

Hurricane Season: Prepare the Entire Family

By Jean Rogalsky, 4-H Youth Development Agent, Pinellas County Extension

Hurricane season will be here before we know it and family preparations should have already started. Most 4-H families have animal members of the family. Children and animals are naturally mutual admirers and animals can teach children a multiple of life skills. One way to teach your children to be responsible, compassionate, and caring, is to encourage them to be a part of their pets’ hurricane plan.

There is more to preparing your pets for hurricane season and possible evacuation than filling a bin with pet food, litter, leashes and toys. There are steps to take that involve you and your family members – human and otherwise. Carol Lehtola, University of Florida Associate Professor and Extension Safety Specialist has created a list of suggestions you should consider now, before a hurricane is on its way. In Helping Four-Legged Friends Survive the Storm, Dr. Lehtola focuses on readiness before the storm and evacuation with your pets. Consider these points:

Take Responsibility - You can’t leave it to the experts to take care of your pets during emergencies. It’s the owner’s responsibility to make decisions about their animals’ welfare. Encourage your children to share their thoughts on hurricane preparation.

Decide on Pet Evacuation - One of the first decisions that you need to make in disaster planning is whether to take your animals with you or leave them behind. Many factors come into play when making this choice. Are you dealing with household pets or horses? Is there room where you’re going for the animals? How will you transport the animals?
Making Preparations for Your Dog - Developing your animal disaster plan before an emergency can save precious time when every second counts. Your preparations should include getting all your pet supplies together if you have advance warning of an impending storm. You also need to find a safe haven for both you and your pet. Make sure you have a travel crate or sturdy leash for your dog. A dog in a shelter or visiting in a home should be socialized. Take your dog with you for outings. An investment in obedience training will benefit the dog and your family, even if a storm doesn’t force you to evacuate.

Preparing Your Cat for Travel - Cats can present special challenges when evacuating. A cat will do better during a disaster if you have helped it be comfortable around people. Does being placed in the carrier only mean one thing to your cat? If a vet visit is associated with the carrier, try planning short excursions and reward the cat upon returning home. This way being in the carrier and in a vehicle does not always result in an unpleasant experience. Plan on having other family members come for the ride. Think of it as a hurricane drill.

Evacuating Your Pets - As you develop plans for your pets, consider creating an emergency kit. You should include pet food, bottled water, prescription medications and a first aid kit. Keeping your pet on a stable diet is critical while it’s experiencing stress, so be sure to bring a supply of the pet’s normal food. If you know that your pet is stressful during storms or travel, ask your vet for medications to relieve stress. A list of items to include in the kit can be found at:

Transporting Your Pets – Once you decide you will evacuate with your pets, consider how much room the animals, carriers or cages, and the rest of your family will take in your vehicle. Under normal conditions, the entire family will not be in one vehicle at one time. You may need more than one vehicle. Try a dry run with the empty carriers and the human members of the family to get an idea of what travel conditions would be like with everyone traveling together.

Finding a Place to Stay - Your shelter from the storm can range from boarding kennels to a friend’s house to hotels or motels. Be sure to check ahead of time and make reservations when the time comes. Several web sites list pet-friendly accommodations.

Hotels that accept pets in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi are listed at:

Information about traveling with your pets is available at:

Papers and ID, Please - No matter where you take your pets, you should make sure that their vaccinations are up to date. You also should always have your pets’ license and identification tag on them. Take a picture of you and the pet to help in identification and to help prove ownership. A microchip is an excellent identification tool that will stay with the pet, even if the collar is lost. Microchips have been used with mammals, birds, and reptiles.
In conclusion, take the responsibility to plan ahead for all your family members. Make it a family project to prepare emergency kits and check that supplies are in good condition and paperwork is up to date. We can’t control the direction of a storm, but we can prepare in the event one does come this way.

Pinellas County
Florida Disaster Handbook
Florida State Agricultural Response Team

May 3, 2009

Facts about the Swine Flu

What is swine flu?
Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs, but swine flu viruses have been reported to spread from person-to-person. Some U.S. states have reported cases of swine flu infection in humans and cases have been reported internationally as well.

Swine flu in humans can vary in severity from mild to severe. However, swine flu infection can be serious.

What are the signs and symptoms of swine flu in people?
The symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. It might include diarrhea and vomiting.
In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

· Fast breathing or trouble breathing
· Bluish skin color
· Not drinking enough fluids
· Not waking up or not interacting
· Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
· Fever with a rash
In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:

· Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
· Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
· Sudden dizziness
· Confusion
· Severe or persistent vomiting
How does swine flu spread? There are two ways:

· From infected pigs or surfaces that are contaminated with these germs.
· From person to person, through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza.
Are there medicines to treat swine flu?
Yes. CDC recommends the use of antiviral drugs that are prescription medicines. For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick (within 2 days of symptoms).
If you are sick, limit your contact with other people as much as possible

What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?
There is no vaccine available right now to protect against swine flu. Take these everyday steps to protect your health:
· Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
· Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
· Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
Can I get swine influenza from eating or preparing pork?
No. Swine influenza viruses are not spread by food. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.

The source of this information is Center for Disease Control and Prevention. For more information visit