Better Kansas – Ideas for Living, Growing and Succeeding

Month: July 2019

Better Kansas – July 18, 2019

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Welcome to Better Kansas. Every Thursday we shed light on events, resources and other information designed to make your life, your businesses, your communities and state better. For more resources and activities, check with the K-State Research and Extension office in your area. In the meantime, check to sign up for a weekly email and for archived entries. – Mary Lou Peter

Better Living, Better Communities

PARENTING CAN BE WONDERFUL, JOYFUL, SATISFYING, and oh, maybe just a tad stressful. And for the many parents who are also stepparents, there are other things to consider, especially if the blended family has recently come together. We all like to think of The Brady Bunch (OK, some of you may have to Google this), but in reality, children who find themselves in a newly blended family with a new stepparent and maybe new sisters or brothers, may perceive the situation differently than their parents do. Stepping Stones for Stepfamilies provides insight into how young minds work and offers suggestions to help with this important transition. Give your family and yourself permission to try things differently. How important is your annual custom of opening gifts on Christmas Eve rather than the next morning? Build your own new traditions. Spend time doing things with each child and in combinations of family members. When it comes to discipline, it may be best for the biological parent to take the lead with the stepparent’s support, especially in the beginning.

DRIVING TO WORK EVERY MORNING I pass a farm that sells fresh produce and one thing that pulls me in is when they hoist the banner for peaches. They’re low in calories, contain no saturated fats, are a moderate source of antioxidants and vitamin C (which helps with our bodies’ ability to build connective tissue and resist infections), and oh yes, they’re delicious. And then there’s peach pie, peach cobbler, peach crisp … you know. I always think of them as so perishable, but you can freeze or can them. Check Preserve it Fresh, Preserve it Safe – Peaches for how-to information.

NOW WHO’S READY TO TALK ABOUT DEATH? NONE OF US, RIGHT? I know I’m not, but when it’s not imminent is probably the best time and for that reason I’m going to write about these things from time to time. There’s a lot of paperwork involved after the passing of a family member and thinking ahead might ease the difficulty of those days. In what bank did Grandma have that CD? DID she still have a CD? Wonder where mom and dad’s marriage certificates are? Or their birth certificates for that matter? Decisions After a Death includes important questions and documents that can help guide us through some of the tough days. Now the big question, do your own grown children or siblings have this information about you? I don’t know about you but this is a reminder for me to do a better job of communicating this information.

Another resource is the Social Security Administration; check the Survivors area for audio and print resources.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

FOR THE ONE OR TWO CATTLE FEEDERS OUT THERE … OK, there may be a few more in the state … the latest report on the estimated net returns of cattle finishing operations is now available on the Department of Agricultural Economics website. The report comes out monthly and reflects the most recent feedlot closeout estimates and current market conditions. This is a page to bookmark if you haven’t already, or sign up to be notified of this and other ag economics updates on By the way, as of June 1, 2019, there were 2.38 million cattle in Kansas feedlots, up 3% from a year ago, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. That was in feedlots with 1,000 or more capacity. Overall, there were 11.7 million cattle on feed across the U.S. on the same date, which USDA says was the highest June 1 inventory since they’ve been tracking the data in 1996.

YOU KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO FEED A HUNGRY TEENAGER? Chinch bugs can be a little like that when they’re looking for their next meal, so watch for signs that they’ve marched from newly-harvested wheat fields over to tender, new sorghum plants in the field next door. Planting delays caused by rain in some areas may have made the sorghum (milo) and feed crops even more vulnerable this year. Problems with chinch bugs were historically confined to eastern and central Kansas, with damage beginning in May or June, but in recent years, they’ve become more problematic farther west in the state. To learn more, take a look at the column Don’t forget about Chinch bugs after wheat harvest and the publication, Sorghum Insect Management.

REMEMBER THIS ON SATURDAY as you’re heading out to mow the lawn: The type of grass in your yard should dictate where you set the height of your mower. Cool-season grasses such as bluegrass and tall fescue are mowed higher than warm-season grasses because of their upright growth habit, especially during really hot weather. The additional height helps insulate the ground against heat, furnishes more food-producing area and encourages roots to grow more deeply into the soil, which all helps curb heat stress. Alternatively, mowing heights for warm-season grasses, particularly bermudagrass and zoysiagrass, are shorter than for cool-season grasses because their leaves are produced on runners (what the scientists call stolons) that grow close to the ground. The Mowing Your Lawn factsheet has mowing height recommendations by grass type, how often to mow, what to do with those clippings (and how to avoid them), mowing patterns and safety. It even covers the “one-third rule” – who knew?

And remember – hydrate, hydrate, hydrate – yourself that is. It’s hot out there.

Better Kansas – July 11, 2019

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Welcome to Better Kansas. Every week we shed light on events, resources and other information designed to make your life, your businesses, your communities and state better. For more resources and activities, check with the K-State Research and Extension office in your area. Watch for Better Kansas on Thursdays. In the meantime, check to sign up for a weekly email and for archived entries. – Mary Lou Peter

Better Living, Better Communities

SOME HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS offer health savings accounts, but what are they? How do they work? Health Savings Accounts, or HSAs, are accounts that you can set up to put money aside to pay for future health-care expenses if you’re enrolled in a high-deductible health plan. Advantages are that the money deposited is not taxable at the time of deposit and may roll over from one year to the next. That makes them different than Flexible Savings Accounts or FSAs where the money must be spent in the same year. Money withdrawn from an HSA account must be spent on qualifying or approved health care expenses, such as medical and dental expenses, eye exams, hearing aids, laboratory fees and more. Learn more with Health Insurance Smarts: Health Savings Accounts.

** A couple of important points: an individual cannot be enrolled in Medicare and contribute to an HSA, and an individual cannot be claimed as a dependent on another person’s tax return.

WE ALL KNOW WE SHOULD EAT FOODS that are nutritious and good for us while maintaining a healthy weight. Gotta love those vitamins and calcium. For some of us (like me) we occasionally need gentle or not-so-gentle reminders about how and why. Check out tips and resources here. Also, your local K-State Research and Extension office has programs and resources that are available in every county in Kansas – all 105 of them.

WHAT ORGANIZATION IS ACTIVE in communities large and small, urban and rural and teaches young Kansans leadership, citizenship, communication and a myriad of other skills? That would be Kansas 4-H, with more than 74,000 youth participating in programs, projects and activities across the state. Think 4-H only has projects for rural kids? Think again! 4-H has those and more. Take a look at the 30 projects that teach everything from how small engines work to how and why water is so important to basic (and advanced if you want) cooking skills. One of my favorite college classes was in geology … wish I’d known I could have learned about it much earlier in life through 4-H. If your interest doesn’t line up with one of the 30 outlined projects, there’s even a “self-determined” project where you can choose what you want to study. More information is available by contacting any local K-State Research and Extension office.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

CONTROL VOLUNTEER WHEAT to keep yield-robbing wheat streak mosaic at bay. Growers’ severe problems with wheat streak mosaic in years past can often be traced to a lack of control of volunteer wheat. Wheat production problems the previous year can leave large amounts of seed on the soil surface. As the seed germinates, it creates a “green bridge” which allows wheat streak mosaic and wheat curl mites, which are vectors of the disease, to survive locally. The disease can cut yield by more than 80 percent when susceptible cultivars are infected as seedlings, making it one of the most economically devastating wheat diseases in Kansas and the Great Plains. Learn more in the July 3, 2019 Agronomy eUpdate and in the Wheat Streak Mosaic fact sheet.


KANSAS FARMLAND VALUES HAVE CHANGED RAPIDLY in recent years but there is little publicly available information for people to know what farm property in the next county is worth or, for that matter, what Grandma’s farm halfway across the state is worth. To help bridge that gap, the Kansas Property Valuation Department provides K-State with data on agricultural land sales, which economists analyze. Irrigated and non-irrigated cropland and pasture is included. Take a look at the 2018 Kansas County-Level Land Values for Cropland and Pasture report.

YOU PLANTED, YOU WEEDED, YOU WATERED and watched those veggie plants bloom, but wait, they’re not setting fruit? It happens! If it’s tomatoes, it could be Mother Nature wreaking havoc with daytime or nighttime temperatures. Overfertilization can also be the culprit. And if you’re growing squash, cucumbers, watermelon or muskmelon, you may need those ever-important pollinators, aka bees! Check out the July 9, 2019 Horticulture Newsletter for more on this and other gardening issues. Previous editions filled with other horticulture topics are also available online or check with your local extension office.

Better Kansas – July 4, 2019

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Welcome to K-State Research and Extension’s Better Kansas, a way to let Kansans and others know about resources, activities and programs happening around the state for individuals, families, communities, businesses, farms and ranches. Watch for a new Better Kansas next Thursday, share it via social media and subscribe for delivery by email. Feedback? Contact me at – Mary Lou Peter, K-State Research and Extension News Media Services

Better Living, Better Communities

ITCHY, ITCHY, ITCHY! Spring and early summer rains coupled with warmer weather have been especially good for mosquitoes.  Anything that holds water – a child’s toy dump truck, the bucket you used to wash the car, the watering can you use to water outdoor flowers – all can be potential breeding sites for mosquitoes. Don’t you just love it when a lucky one works its way into your house and dive bombs your ear while you’re trying to sleep? You can help control the mosquito population outside your home by removing water-holding containers where mosquitoes breed, or by at least cleaning them out routinely. Other ways to protect yourself and to control mosquitoes are outlined in Mosquito Protection and Control and Pests That Affect Human Health.

WE’VE ALL HEARD OF TYPE 2 DIABETES, BUT WHAT’S PREDIABETES? The number is really too high to comprehend, but 84 million adults in the United States have prediabetes,  a serious health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough for a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. If you’re prediabetes, you’re at a high risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. But you can work toward better health, including being more active, eating healthier and quitting smoking. More information is available in Prediabetes: Are You One of the Millions? Also, check with your local extension office for additional programs or resources. We’ll have more about Type 2 diabetes in upcoming Better Kansas posts.

FINDING YOUR VOICE AND DEVELOPING YOUR LEADERSHIP SKILLS is not always easy when you’re working every day to strengthen your own community, business, farm or ranch. The Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership program based at K-State is focused on building those skills. Every two years a new class of 30 is chosen. Those individuals, who come from a broad range of backgrounds like yours, including public education, banking, farm production, government and more, will participate in seminars within the state, travel to a blue chip corporation, meet with legislators and tour Washington, D.C., and take an international trip. Congratulations to the new KARL Class XV ! OK, a little disclosure, I am a proud KARL alum myself … an incredible experience. 

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

CORN PLANTING WAS WAY DELAYED BY THOSE INCREDIBLE RAINS WE’VE HAD BUT the crop is finally in and coming along. As of June 30, the USDA-NASS said 8% of the Kansas crop rated excellent, 44% good, 35% fair and 13% poor to very poor. Silking had occurred on 8%, well behind 28% last year and 22% average. Corn diseases so far appear to be minimal, but keep scouting those fields. More information is available in an article and in a recent K-State Agronomy eUpdate newsletter item.

SOYBEANS AND COTTON TAKE CENTER STAGE AT THE 2019 K-State/KARA Summer Field School when Kansas State University and the Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association (KARA) host a pair of two-day, hands-on field schools July 9-10 and July 11-12 at the K-State Agronomy North Farm, 2200 Kimball Ave, Manhattan – just north of the football stadium. This year’s program will focus on soybean and cotton production and fertility. In addition, comprehensive training in herbicide efficacy and injury, weed identification, soil and water management, crop diseases, and insects are in the lineup. Take a look at the complete program and register. The cost for this year’s program is $210 and includes lunch on both days, plus the opportunity to earn 12 CCA credits and multiple 1A credits.

SIX COLLEGE MAJORS YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF but maybe wish you or that college senior of yours had are highlighted in this article. It’s not too late! Check out these majors and many more at Kansas State University. There’s something to suit just about everyone.


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