Better Kansas – Ideas for Living, Growing and Succeeding

Month: December 2019

Better Kansas – Dec. 19, 2019

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Happy Holidays to you! It’s been my pleasure for the past several months to bring you Better Kansas, a weekly glimpse at some of the events and resources available through K-State Research and Extension to help make your home, business, and everyday life better. I’m taking a holiday break next week but back at it on Jan. 2. In the meantime, have a wonderful holiday and please forward this to friends and family and share on social media. Plus, I’d love to hear your feedback or suggestions to make Better Kansas even … well … better! – Mary Lou Peter

Better Living, Better Communities

RECENTLY, I WAS LOOKING FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE WINTER SOLSTICE …. you know, when we have the shortest day and longest night of the year… and in my search, was reminded of a treasure trove of short (1-minute) audio reports on all things weather related in Weather Wonders. Recent snippets are about weather warnings (as in what are they?), whiteouts, heating degree days and more. And yes, I found one on the winter solstice. We live in a state where it’s a good idea to pay attention to the weather and meteorological events! Unlike conditions in some other parts of the country, weather is always changing here! By the way, this year’s winter solstice is Dec. 21. So, every day after that we can look forward to a little more daylight … until, of course, the SUMMER SOLSTICE in June!


BECAUSE OF ITS ODORLESS, TASTELESS AND COLORLESS WAYS, RADON CAN BE A SILENT KILLER AND unfortunately, it’s fairly prevalent in Kansas soils. The radioactive gas that occurs naturally in some soils is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. It claims the lives of about 21,000 Americans every year, according to the EPA. But there are ways to test for it and mitigate it. January is Kansas Radon Action Month. Learn more from the Kansas Radon Program based at K-State and check with your local K-State Research and Extension office (click on your county for location/contact information) – many of them have radon test kits available for a nominal cost.


WE ARE JUST DAYS FROM THE WINTER HOLIDAYS and for many of us (and especially procrastinators like me :-0), that means crunch time for shopping, wrapping, meal planning and more. So, when I saw there were tips on Reducing the Hassle of Holiday Food Prep, it spoke to me. I won’t be as busy with this as some of my family members this year, but hey, I’m going to help 😊!!!!! Whether you’re hosting a crowd or just looking for suggestions about pacing yourself to reduce stress anytime you’re in the kitchen, take a look. Another option is to listen in to a short audio feature on a related topic.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

GOING NUTS: TIPS ON THE BEST WAYS TO KEEP THOSE HOLIDAY pecans, walnuts and other nutty treats fresh and good tasting are part of the Dec. 17, 2019 Horticulture Newsletter. You really can freeze them! Plus, there are sections on environmentally friendly ways of disposing of real Christmas trees and how to keep fruit from gift baskets fresh as long as possible. For some reason those luscious oranges, grapefruit and pears taste even better in the midst of the cold, dark days of winter. Sort of like a promise that summer will come again.


THIS YEAR’S EXCEPTIONALLY WET GROWING SEASON made it more difficult than usual to bale hay without moisture, resulting in moldy hay in some cases. Horses, particularly, are more sensitive to mold than some livestock, but cattle and people can be affected, too. If you’re faced with decisions about feeding moldy hay and other livestock production considerations, check out livestock and forage articles on this and other related topics.


MOST OF THE STATE’S WINTER WHEAT CROP HAS EMERGED BUT IS NOT COMING ALONG as is typical at this point of the season. Below normal precipitation and temperatures in many areas, especially central and western Kansas, impeded emergence rates and in some areas where the crop emerged, fields are in poor shape. In its last weekly progress report of the 2019 growing season on Dec. 9, USDA said 94% of Kansas wheat had emerged. Its condition was rated 24% poor to very poor, 38% fair, 35% good and 3% excellent. Take a look at an Agronomy eUpdate on this season’s crop and what producers should watch for. At stake is a Kansas crop that in 2018 alone was worth more than $1.3 billion. Typically, about half of our state’s wheat is exported to other countries.


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:

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

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.


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:


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

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:

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