Better Kansas – Ideas for Living, Growing and Succeeding

Better Kansas – Dec. 12, 2019

Header image for the Better Kansas BlogWelcome to Better Kansas, where every Thursday we shed light on events, resources and other information designed to make your life, businesses, communities and state better. This is a small glimpse of what K-State Research and Extension across the state has to offer. Share on social media and subscribe! – Mary Lou Peter mlpeter@ksu.edu

Better Living, Better Communities

WHETHER IT’S A HOT DOG AT A DAUGHTER’S BASKETBALL GAME or a birthday dinner at a favorite restaurant, many of us are eating meals away from home OR food in our homes that was prepared by others. Think DoorDash and other meal delivery services. Sixty percent of suppers served at home in 2014 were actually cooked at home, down from 75% in 1984, according to an interesting report by the USDA’s Economic Research Service released last year. That’s a lot of food that we’re trusting others to prepare for us. One of the less visible, but incredibly important programs that works behind the scenes to keep that food safe is the ServSafe program for food handlers and foodservice managers offered by K-State Research and Extension. We do this in partnership with the Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association.

LET’S KEEP GOING WITH THAT FOOD THEME since after all, it’s the “season of feasting!” For our office just yesterday, it was a cookie exchange and a holiday party. I don’t know about you but it’s nearly impossible for me to stop at just one cookie or a couple of crackers and cheese and whatever else is being served. And never mind the cookies I bought from the youth group fundraiser last weekend. It’s philanthropy … sort of … right?! Listen in to a Sound Living radio program for tips to reduce fat and calories while still enjoying the foods of the season. Or take a look at this news article on the subject.

THIS ALSO SEEMS TO BE THE SEASON FOR EVERY CHARITY AND NON-PROFIT WE’VE EVER THOUGHT ABOUT GIVING TO (plus some we’ve never heard of), to send requests for donations. It’s so easy to be caught up in the spirit of giving and that’s often a good thing. Check this article for tips to help keep all of that good will from completely blowing your budget at this time of year. Wait, did I say budget? What budget? 😊

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

KICK OFF THE NEW YEAR BY LEARNING SOMETHING NEW in the Farm Financial Skills for Kansas Women in Agriculture workshop sessions planned for four consecutive Wednesday evenings starting Jan. 15. The workshops will be held in 32 locations across the state, so there’s likely one near you. The training delves into recordkeeping, balance sheets, income statements, cash flow, goal setting, plus managing living expenses, coping with mental stress and developing a whole-farm financial management plan. Plus, there will be time to network with others. The deadline to register is Dec. 31. The cost is $40. Whether you’re running your own farm or play a role in your family’s or someone else’s farm business, what better way to start the new year than by sharpening your skills, having an evening meal and setting goals specific to your operation? Oh, by the way, the training has been approved to satisfy Farm Service Agency Borrower Training Financial requirements. Check the website for specific locations and more information or contact Robin Reid at 785-532-0964 or LaVell Winsor at 785-220-5451.

IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR WHEN ROW CROP PLANTING, GROWING AND (HOPEFULLY) HARVESTING IS FINISHED and that means many educational opportunities happening during these off-season winter months. They include the 2020 Soybean, Corn and Sorghum schools starting in early January at locations around the state. If you plant any of these crops or are even thinking about it, this is a great way to get updates on what the latest research shows and information on production practices. The schools are free to attend and designed for growers and industry partners, plus a complimentary lunch will be served at all locations, thanks to industry sponsors.

WHEN WE THINK OF KANSAS, WE MAY THINK OF WIDE-OPEN PRAIRIES AND BEAUTIFUL SUNSETS, but trees are not always top of mind. Yet there are 5.2 million acres of forests, woodlands and trees in Kansas that occupy 10% of the state’s total land area. The Kansas Forest Service, housed as an independent agency within K-State Research and Extension, works to improve water quality and quantity in Kansas, offers low-cost tree and shrub seedling for conservation planting, assists with fire management and supports community vitality in small towns and large cities across the state, plus a lot more. Read more about the KFS and for a look at recent projects, check here.

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For more resources and activities, contact the K-State Research and Extension office in your area. Check out our other blogs and subscribe to our weekly emails here: https://www.ksre.k-state.edu/news/blogs/

 

Better Kansas – Dec. 5, 2019

Welcome to Better Kansas, where every Thursday we shed light on events, resources and other information designed to make your life, businesses, communities and state better. This is a small glimpse of what K-State Research and Extension across the state has to offer. Share on social media and subscribe! – Mary Lou Peter mlpeter@ksu.edu

Better Living, Better Communities

FORECASTERS ARE EXPECTING EQUAL CHANCES OF ABOVE OR BELOW NORMAL PRECIPITATION AND TEMPERATURES for much of Kansas this winter, which I would call normal 😊. But of course, normal for us could be considered pretty whacky by people who don’t live here. It makes us hardy, right? Even if we escape brutal conditions (wishful thinking for sure), wetter-than-normal conditions expected in the northern Plains could mean flooding for some of us once again, especially in the northeast part of the state. Take a look at the latest winter weather outlook via the Kansas Weather Data Library for more detailed information.

 

I’M ALWAYS INTERESTED TO LEARN WHY SOME RURAL COMMUNITIES THRIVE while others struggle, so I found this radio/print series on KCUR/National Public Radio about rural communities particularly interesting. They touch on population retention, the meat packing industry and other commercial enterprises, tourism, the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals, or DACA, program and more. Some segments provide a K-State rural sociologist’s perspective. Separately, I was at a meeting recently where this very subject came up, but in a different context, about rural communities and the differences in them. At that meeting, a participant who’s had a long career in banking said in every case he’d seen, the difference is leadership. In more successful communities, he said, one person or a group of people proactively stepped up to lead community or regional initiatives. We’ll have more on this topic in upcoming posts.

 

HAVE YOU CONSIDERED SELLING AT FARMERS’ MARKETS OR MAYBE ALREADY DO? Dates are set for the 2020 Regional Farmers’ Market Workshops in Iola, Wichita, Olathe, Hiawatha, Beloit and Leoti. The workshops, a collaborative effort of K-State Research and Extension and the Kansas Department of Agriculture, will cover selling at farmers’ markets, sales tax, food safety and more. The growing (and selling) season will be here before we know it.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

NOTHING SIGNALS THE WINTER HOLIDAYS LIKE A PERFECT POINSETTIA! These beautiful members of the Euphorbiaceae or Spurge family are known by scientists as Euphorbia pulcherrima. OK, enough with the science, but if you want to keep your poinsettia looking good through the holidays and beyond, know that they can be a bit finicky. They like a sunny place in the room but don’t want to touch the cold window. They don’t like “wet feet” so don’t overwater. Sounds like some people I know! Check out a video on choosing the best poinsettia and more tips on caring for these lovelies in a recent horticulture newsletter and scroll to Poinsettia Care. Plus, you’ll find information on winterizing strawberry plants, ashes in the garden and other topics.

 

IF YOU USE PROPANE TO HEAT YOUR HOME OR DRY DOWN YOUR GRAIN, you may have noticed that in some areas it’s less available, and the price may be up from last summer. This year’s unusually wet weather resulted in a corn crop that was slow to develop and mature. Propane is used by many farmers as a primary source of fuel to dry their wet grain in order to keep it from spoiling. The shortages and price hikes in some areas are partly a result of that spike in demand. Take a look at the Nov. 22 article Propane Market Update and Prospects for more information or listen to an Agriculture Today radio interview with one of the authors.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED THE RECENT 2019 KSU SWINE DAY or want to review what you heard and saw, videos and slideshow presentations from the day have been posted online. They include K-State’s nationally known swine nutrition team plus keynote speaker, Dr. Josh Flohr of Seaboard Foods addressing “Decision Processes and Implementing a Nutritional Program in an Integrated System.” For more detailed information on the university’s latest swine research, check out individual research articles. Or, listen in to a radio interview with Egan Brockhoff with Prairie Swine Health Services about efforts to keep African swine fever out of Canada.  It’s almost like being there. Well, almost.

For more resources and activities, contact the K-State Research and Extension office in your area. Check out our other blogs and subscribe to our weekly emails here: https://www.ksre.k-state.edu/news/blogs/

Better Kansas – Nov. 21, 2019

Better Kansas – Nov. 21, 2019

Welcome to Better Kansas, where every Thursday we shed light on events, resources and other information designed to make your life, businesses, communities and state better. This is a small glimpse of what K-State Research and Extension across the state has to offer. Share on social media and subscribe! My next post will be Thursday, Dec. 5. In the meantime, I’ll be planning upcoming posts and celebrating turkey day. Happy Thanksgiving! – Mary Lou Peter mlpeter@ksu.edu

Better Living, Better Communities

THE HOLIDAYS ARE COMING, AND THAT MEANS THOSE KIDDOS ARE GOING TO BE HOME with a lot of unstructured time on their hands. You know what that means. Children will often gravitate toward screen time on their phone, tablet or television. Figuring out ways to limit that time can be challenging – there are only so many trips you can make to the park or zoo or board games you can play, but studies show that excessive media consumption can lead to attention difficulties, school problems, sleeping and eating disorders and depression. How many of us adults think we’re going to check social media for a couple of minutes and an hour later … you know what I’m saying! For more information, including American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations, take a look at The New Screen Time: Beyond Television and into the Future.

 

NO PLACE LIKE HOME: In many cases, aging in one’s own home makes sense, but sometimes a few modifications are helpful. Home features that once were navigated as part of everyday life – stairs, bathtubs and kitchens – can sometimes be altered to make them safer and easier to use while supporting independence. Changing out door knobs to more easily opened lever-type handles or adding better lighting may seem costly, but that cost will be minimal compared with a hospital stay or a move to a nursing home. Check out the four-page Simple Home Modification for Aging in Place factsheet for more tips. I’m reminded of when my 80-plus-year-old dad was visiting and a friend suggested I remove items from the stairs to decrease the chance of him (or ANY of us!) tripping. My friend was so right! Sometimes we adult children don’t recognize the hazards right in plain view.

WE KNOW ABOUT AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH AND EXTENSION PROGRAMS at universities like K-State and their important role in helping feed the nation and the world (if you have questions about that, send me an email and I’ll connect you with the right people :), but a lesser-known aspect of extension is engineering extension. These folks assist and provide education to home and business owners, plus government agencies on topics such as energy efficiency, pollution prevention, radon prevention and mitigation, and more – even grant writing. Watch for more posts about these topics in upcoming weeks.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

LOW COMMODITY PRICES AND HIGH INPUT COSTS, plus this year’s challenging weather and trade disputes make farm financial management more important than ever. Kansas women involved in farming of any kind, whether it’s growing sweet potatoes or soybeans, have an opportunity to sharpen their skills by signing up for Farm Financial Skills for Kansas Women in Agriculture. The program series, planned for four consecutive Wednesday evenings from mid-January to early February, are offered in 31 communities across the state. Each evening begins with a meal, followed by training on specific topics, including recordkeeping, balance sheets, income statements, farm family expense management, cash flow and more. Don’t miss out on this first-of-a-kind Kansas program. In doing a little background reading, I learned that Wamego, Kansas, was once the sweet potato capital of the United States. Interesting!

OK, MAYBE IT’S JUST ME, BUT SOME OF US HAVE A TENDENCY TO PUT THAT HARDWORKING LAWNMOWER AWAY right after the last fall mowing. You know who you are :). A little maintenance now will improve your day come spring when you’re ready to fire it up because dang, that grass is growing again! Apparently, gas left in the mower for months becomes thick and gummy and what about those blades that were getting dull toward the end of the season? Take a look at the horticulture newsletter for more on this plus other topics.

ARE THOSE PUMPKINS ON YOUR PORCH OR AT THE FARM GATE GETTING BEYOND RIPE? Mine certainly are. It turns out, you can feed them to poultry or livestock as a tasty treat and a good source of vitamins A and E. Just make sure they’ve not been painted or treated with anything toxic. Take a look at Recyling Pumpkins for more tips. One of my pumpkins disappeared from the porch a few days ago. I thought momentarily it might have been stolen and it turned out it was! By a hungry raccoon looking for a snack, I suspect. I found it under a bush by the porch.

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For more resources and activities, contact the K-State Research and Extension office in your area. Check out our other blogs and subscribe to our weekly emails here: https://www.ksre.k-state.edu/news/blogs/

Better Kansas – Nov. 14, 2019

Welcome to Better Kansas, where every Thursday we shed light on events, resources and other information designed to make your life, businesses, communities and state better. This is a small glimpse of what K-State Research and Extension across the state has to offer. Share on social media and subscribe! – Mary Lou Peter mlpeter@ksu.edu

Better Living, Better Communities

IN CASE YOU CAN’T TELL BY ALL THE ADVERTISING, THANKSGIVING IS IN JUST TWO WEEKS! Whether you’re hosting a crowd or having a party of one, take a look at Food Safety for Holiday Meals for all manner of tips and information to keep the good times on track. It’s really relevant information for any time of year. Maybe it’s just me, but I especially enjoyed: “Hotline Answers ‘Panic Button’ Food Safety Questions.” I wonder what percentage of first-time turkey cooks have accidentally left the bag of giblets in the turkey while cooking it? MANY of us, I think! It’s amazing how many things are hidden in the nooks and crannies of those birds!

 

WHILE WE’RE ON THE TOPIC OF FOOD, we should recognize that even in a state like Kansas where we grow so much food, there are plenty of people who don’t have enough to eat. About 11% of U.S. households are food insecure, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service. It might be those children walking by on their way to the school bus. Or the elderly man in front of you at the store. Listen in to a Sound Living podcast on improving food security.

 

THE YOUNGEST BABY BOOMERS ARE ABOUT 55 YEARS OLD; THE OLDEST IN THEIR 70s. That means a whole lot of people are retiring every day in this country. I know a few of those folks. Some say that after a few months, they didn’t know what to do with themselves, so they went back to work. Others say their blood pressure dropped and health improved. If you’re considering taking this big step, it sounds like a good idea to have a plan. A good conversation starter (even if that conversation is with yourself) is the factsheet So Now What? Tips for Managing Life after Retirement. It goes through typical stages, starting with the “honeymoon” stage. You know … that’s where you catch up on sleep!

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

IF LIKE ME, YOU HAD GORGEOUS ROSES THAT PUT ON A SHOW ALL SEASON LONG, consider protecting them from the winter cold by mounding soil or compost around them. Check out more information, plus a link to a video on winterizing roses. Other topics include the lowdown on an annual turfgrass conference, getting amaryllis to bloom for the holiday season, watering your landscape NOW (may have to get that hose out one more time), the nitty gritty on what you can do to improve garden soil now and more.

 

ALMOST ALL LIVING THINGS NEED IT – WATER, THAT IS. A recent Dig Deep podcast delves into basic facts about water in Kansas – where it comes from, where it goes, and conservation. The segment features Dan Devlin, a K-State professor who’s also the director of the Kansas Center for Agricultural Resources and the Environment (KCARE). He sheds light on a new effort called the Irrigation Innovation Consortium that brings researchers from several universities together with private industry to come up with better ways to use this precious resource more efficiently. Listen in.

THE USDA REVISED ITS LATEST ESTIMATE ON HOW MUCH CORN U.S. GROWERS WILL PRODUCE THIS YEAR downward to 13.661 billion bushels – 118 million bushels less than what it predicted a month ago, largely owing to harvest delays. And that’s just a small portion of what’s in the U.S. Crop Production and World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates released Nov. 8. For a closer look at the numbers and what they mean, take a look at an analysis of the data. Ending stocks, stocks-to-use, supply-and-demand balances … it’s all in there. And it’s not just about corn. The nitty gritty on soybeans, wheat and grain sorghum is also put into perspective.

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For more resources and activities, contact the K-State Research and Extension office in your area. Check out our other blogs and subscribe to our weekly emails here: https://www.ksre.k-state.edu/news/blogs/

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