Better Kansas – Ideas for Living, Growing and Succeeding

Month: April 2020

Better Kansas – April 30, 2020

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Today in Better Kansas, we explore becoming a volunteer weather reporter, a unique crossword puzzle, an activity to do with children, the fascinating praying mantis (plus Rally Mantis), freeze damage to wheat, and managing backyard chickens. This is a tiny glimpse of what K-State Research and Extension across the state has to offer. Forward to your friends and family, share on social media and subscribe! – Mary Lou Peter mlpeter@ksu.edu

Better Living, Better Communities

ARE YOU FASCINATED BY THE WEATHER? Consider becoming a volunteer weather reporter through CoCoRaHs, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. It’s a non-profit network of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds, working together to measure and map precipitation in the form of rain, hail or snow. Volunteers from across the United States and several other countries measure precipitation and input the data on the network’s website. This would be a fantastic family project. The data is used by the National Weather Service, meteorologists, emergency managers and others. Learn about CoCoRaHs through the Weather Data Library based at Kansas State University.

 

LOOKING FOR SOMETHING TO KEEP THE CHILDREN OCCUPIED OR TO WORK ON WITH THEM? Or maybe you just enjoy crossword puzzles. In looking for something else, I happened upon this energy crossword puzzle on the Kansas Energy Program’s webpage that I thought you might like. Also, on the page are energy-related resources for small businesses, teachers, government facilities and programs for wind and solar power. The Kansas Energy Program is a collaboration between K-State, the Kansas Corporation Commission, the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

 

A FEW WEEKS AGO, I MENTIONED SUDDENLY IN CHARGE, a new place to find a lot of resources available for teens, tweens or anyone taking care of young children. And since I wrote about it last time, numerous new resources have been added including one on  Community Outreach, with suggestions for making May Day baskets or something similar at other times of the year. Consider including a roll of toilet tissue! Sometimes, we need a reminder about the little things that go a long way toward staying connected and showing we care – especially important right now. If you’re reading this after May Day, any day is good for you and the children you’re caring for to show your appreciation for others – what a lesson for those kiddos. The resource is available in English and Spanish.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

BUG SEASON IS BACK! Entomologists would likely say it never left, but we are sure to have more face-to-face activity now that the weather is warming. An interesting one is what the scientists call the praying mantid, known to the rest of us as the praying mantis. Apparently, they’re not very picky about what they eat, which makes them a good companion (but not for other insects) to have in the garden. Check out the praying mantid section of the April 24, 2020 Kansas Insect Newsletter. You can actually buy praying mantis egg cases?!? Anybody remember Rally Mantis, the KC Royals short-lived (literally) mascot? A brief moment of fun in an otherwise disappointing season. I even had a Rally Mantis T-shirt. Who knew I’d ever be writing about this?!

 

THIS IS THE TIME OF YEAR WHEN BABY CHICKS CAN OFTEN BE FOUND at farm stores and other locations, but recent stories in the New York Times and others indicate that chicks are in greater demand this year than usual. Apparently, we want to buy chicks during stock market downturns and presidential election years… there’s an appeal to gathering our own eggs rather than hope the grocery store has them – not always a sure thing during this pandemic. If you’re among the lucky people who recently bought or are raising a few chickens, Management of the Small Flock of Chickens will come in handy. Also, take a look at the poultry page on K-State’s Department of Animal Sciences and Industry page for information on poultry and what the university does to help producers, from large scale operations to your own backyard flock. I just learned that crooked toes can be caused by a riboflavin deficiency – in chickens, mind you!

 

PORTIONS OF THE WHEAT STATE (OTHERWISE KNOWN AS KANSAS!) experienced freezing weather in mid-April, which injured some of the crop. The wheat was in different stages of development in various parts of the state, which makes a difference to the freeze’s effect. The variety of wheat planted back in the fall also made a difference, with some varieties that came out of dormancy earlier this spring showing more damage than those that came out later. The April 24, 2020 Agronomy eUpdate gets into the nitty gritty. As of April 26, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service rated Kansas winter wheat as 5% excellent, 35% good, 40% fair, 15% poor and 5% very poor. The Agronomy eUpdate also includes information about soybean planting, including recommendations for planting dates, effect of row spacing on crop yield and more.

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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 – April 23, 2020

Today in Better Kansas we touch on the benefits of board games, kids in the kitchen, a fun video, lawn mowing how-tos and farmland values, plus soil testing and plant disease diagnosis.  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

WITH ALL OF THIS TOGETHERNESS, there’s no better time to put away the cell phones, turn off the TV and dig out that Monopoly or Trouble game (or whatever is in the closet). The family I grew up in were not game players other than occasional Checkers, but once I had children of my own, we enjoyed Go Fish, and later Yahtzee, Uno and Mancala. Board games and card games bring people together and promote interaction in ways that video games and television just don’t. Games encourage communication, listening, and sometimes strengthen STEM skills. Plus, they can give children a voice and encourage decision making. Check out Bonding Thru Board Games for so many reasons to give it a try. Have you tried Nerts? What a wild experience! It’s the only time I yell at my daughter-in-law … all in good fun. She always wins.

FLOUR IS FLYING OFF GROCERY STORE SHELVES SO THAT MUST MEAN MORE OF US ARE BAKING AT HOME RIGHT NOW. It may require a little more patience, but experts say it’s a good idea to include children in the baking and cooking process if possible. A recent You Asked It item says letting children help in the kitchen nurtures STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills. Plus, we often hear accomplished cooks and bakers say their love for cooking or baking came from memories of helping a parent or grandparent in the kitchen. More ideas come from the Home Baking Association, which strives to teach essential living skills while connecting with agriculture, food science and more. The program offers lessons grouped by age category. Oh, and there are recipes!

 

OKAY, I’M INCLUDING THIS TODAY BECAUSE IT JUST MADE ME HAPPY and can’t we all use a little more of that right now? You don’t have to be a big Wildcat fan to appreciate the sentiment conveyed by the K-State Director of Bands in this video. Watch it from the beginning and turn your speakers on! It even brought a smile to a Jayhawk friend of mine.

 

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, START YOUR MOWERS! One of those simple joys in life is the look and smell of a newly mowed lawn. It’s such a nice reward for our efforts. For tips on sharpening mower blades take a look at a video on the topic. And even more information is available in Mowing Your Lawn, including optimal mower height and frequency for the type of grass you have, suggestions for handling clippings, mowing patterns and choosing a mower. It even covers a topic that comes up often: to mow or not to mow in rainy weather? (The answer is yes, if the grass is getting too long and you can’t get a dry break.) This all reminds me of a time when a neighbor asked why I was mowing the grass when my then-teenagers could do it. My response was that I loved doing it! Trust me, the kiddos all took their turns, too.

 

AMONG THE NEWS ARTICLES I’VE WRITTEN OVER THE YEARS, some of the most popular have been on the topic of farmland values. Farmland values in large part, reflect the economic well-being of farmers. The price of farmland rose quickly from 2008-2014, but in 2015, lower prices for the crops farmers grow on that land also pulled land prices lower. For details, including specific regions of the state, check the new Kansas Agricultural Land Values and Trends 2019 book. I didn’t know until I read this that the number of acres sold on an annual basis across the state has decreased dramatically since 2014-2015. Interesting stuff. The publication was produced by K-State’s Department of Agricultural Economics in collaboration with the American Society of Farm Managers and Appraisers. In addition, check out a webinar on what’s happening to land values in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

EVEN THOUGH MANY K-STATE STAFF AND FACULTY MEMBERS ARE WORKING FROM HOME, ESSENTIAL WORK IS STILL GOING ON. Two of the labs on the Manhattan campus that are open and accepting samples from farmers, homeowners and landowners are the Soil Testing Lab and the Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab. Because of circumstances linked to COVID-19, however, the process to submit samples has changed somewhat. Take a look at an online update about the labs and the proper methods to submit samples while still keeping yourself and others safe.

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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 – April 16, 2020

 

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This week in Better Kansas, we shed a little light on the current situation in K-State Research and Extension offices around the state, preparing for potential severe weather, being mindful of others in these unusual circumstances, planting a garden, soybean research and the CARES Act and how it affects agricultural producers. 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

K-STATE RESEARCH AND EXTENSION HAS AN OFFICE IN EACH OF KANSAS’ 105 COUNTIES, but like so many, most of our staff are currently working from home. You may have taken part in many extension classes, field days and other programs or maybe you’re just discovering us! We’re still here and still in the education business but the ways we convey the information will continue to look a little different than our typical in-person events, at least through July 4. Read more about it. And check with your local extension office to see what’s being offered and what’s coming up.

 

THE RECENT DEADLY STORMS ACROSS THE SOUTHEAST U.S. ARE just the latest reminder that we’ve entered the time of year when severe weather is more likely. And this year, in the midst of the pandemic, we have even more to consider. If you haven’t done it yet, or are not sure where it is, put together an emergency kit AND make a plan with your family. I’m always reminded how once in a meeting with all age groups represented, in case of an emergency, the older participants said they’d take photo albums and the younger ones said they’d grab their computers. I think we’d all be grabbing our cell phones, but let’s have our emergency kits ready, too! Good resources include Severe weather preparedness during COVID-19; the Prepare Kansas blog; Ready.gov; and Kansas Division of Emergency Management.

 

EVEN THOUGH THIS IS THE BETTER LIVING, BETTER COMMUNITIES SECTION, I’m including a link to something I read this week in the Animal Sciences and Industry newsletter that I thought we could all use a reminder about. It’s the message in “Management Minute: Circumstances and Assumptions” at the top of the third page that resonated with me. It has to do with how, like we ourselves are dealing with a weird reality right now, sometimes fraught with stress and anxiety, so is almost everyone around us. So, when we’re frazzled because of our own situation, try to remember that almost everyone you’re interacting with probably is, too. This came home to me this week when I was on the phone with someone from my cable company, trying to get my ever-climbing monthly bill reduced. The woman on the other end sounded less than professional and like she was, ummmmm working from home, which I realized she probably was! Hang in there everyone.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

ALL OF THIS TIME AT HOME IN THE MOST UNEXPECTED OF CIRCUMSTANCES HAS MANY OF US EAGER TO GET OUT THERE AND PLANT A GARDEN. Check out this video for basic tips, including not going overboard on the number of plants (guilty) and planting the garden where it gets enough sun. Plus, don’t forget to check the ever-popular Kansas Garden Guide for information on growing all kinds of fruits and vegetables, including the occasional  challenge like pest control. There’s even a section on alternatives to chemicals. It also covers fertilizing, tips on efficient water use and a chart showing what zone you’re in. Pretty sure some people think I’m in the twilight zone, but that’s a topic for another day. These zones have to do with average frost-free days when it’s safest to plant. I’m reminded again just how big our state is.

 

SOYBEANS ARE: A) OFTEN FOUND IN LIVESTOCK RATIONS; B) A COMMON INGREDIENT IN AMERICAN’S COOKING OIL; OR C) A SNACK CALLED EDAMAME. ANSWER: ALL OF THE ABOVE! They’re even grown to be used in biodiesel fuels. A K-State researcher is leading a team of scientists from several states looking for ways to improve the quality of soybean seeds so that the crop maintains high protein levels even as yields per acre increase. A short online article hits the highlights. TOFU ANYONE?

 

WHAT IS ‘CARES’ AND WHY SHOULD WE CARE? Because in one way or another, we’ve all been affected by COVID-19. Just last weekend I learned that the father of a high school classmate died of the virus. And we all know people who are at least temporarily out of work or whose business is suffering or worse. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act or CARES Act was signed into law March 27 with bipartisan support in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The more than $2 trillion relief package has financial provisions to help many Americans, including agricultural producers. Of the total, $9.5 billion will go for direct relief to livestock, dairy and specialty crop producers. For much more on how the CARES Act will work for farmers, ranchers and agricultural cooperatives, take a look at Government Stimulus Programs for Ag Producers and Coops which includes a link to a fact sheet and recently recorded webinar on the topic.

Kansas Corn hosted a webinar that may be helpful as well.

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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 – April 9, 2020

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Welcome to Better Kansas! Today we touch on new resources for teens, tweens and anyone taking care of younger children, cooking with in-season fruits and vegetables, another look at First Friday e-Calls for small businesses, Growing Growers, antimicrobials in cattle and the developing wheat crop. 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

THIS PANDEMIC AND THE CLOSURE OF SCHOOLS AND PRESCHOOLS HAS MANY PARENTS SCRAMBLING TO FIND CHILD CARE. If you know a family with older siblings looking after younger siblings or maybe taking care of a friend’s or neighbor’s kiddos, let them know about a new resource, Suddenly in Charge. Resources added to the new web page will support teens or tweens … really anyone who’s taking care of young children, coronavirus or not. The first item under the “Safety” tab, Baby Sitter Information, features a downloadable, printable list that can be helpful for anyone taking care of children. It includes space for parents’ names, contact information, physical address where you’re caring for the child, child’s doctor’s contact information, a section for rules, screen time, naptime and more. Helpful tools I wish I’d had when I had child care for my own children and later when my children helped care for others’ kids. And don’t forget to check back. New resources will be added in the coming weeks.

 

I’VE BEEN FOCUSING A LOT ON FOOD LATELY, maybe because like many of you, I’m working from home and am about 10 paces from my kitchen :-0 ! I’ve come across a resource, Simple Seasonal Meals that comes with suggestions for cooking what’s in season, complete with a few recipes to get you started. Soon that will be asparagus, strawberries and spinach! And don’t miss page 8 that features a great harvest calendar. It shows what and when fruits and vegetables are typically harvested in Kansas. You know what that means, right? You’ll likely find them on sale during that time at your favorite market!

 

LAST WEEK I TOLD YOU ABOUT FIRST FRIDAY E-CALLS AVAILABLE FOR SMALL KANSAS BUSINESSES. We had 190 people on last week’s call that featured several speakers from key state agencies addressing COVID-19 and resources available to Kansas’ small businesses and their employees. Unfortunately, we were one of the many recent victims of Zoom bombing, so the public side of the call was ended quickly. The good news is that the speakers stayed on and recorded their good information. If you’re a small business owner or employee affected by the pandemic, take a look at the First Friday e-call information. It’s hard to know what motivates Zoom bombers, but we’ve taken steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

GROWING GROWERS IS GEARING UP! Wichita and Kansas City area produce growers, not only those who sell or have thought about selling to the public, but also those who are simply interested in growing fresh fruits and vegetables, have resources available to them through Growing Growers Kansas City and Growing Growers ICT (Wichita/southeast Kansas area). Both programs have workshops available to help hone your skills and for more hands on training, apprentice farmer education programs so you can learn from veteran farmers.

MENTION CATTLE, BEEF AND ANTIMICROBIAL MEDICATION IN THE SAME CONVERSATION, and you’ll likely get all kinds of opinions on antibiotic resistance in humans and animals. But just like humans, cattle do get sick and sometimes need to be treated with antibiotics to fight the infection and return them to health. There are strict requirements for how much time must pass between when an animal is treated with an antimicrobial and when they can go to the packing plant – that first step in the process that ends with beef on your table. To learn a lot more about this topic, take a look at FDA-Approved Injectable Beef Cattle Antimicrobials

 

JUST LIKE GROWING CHILDREN, THE WHEAT CROP HAS CERTAIN NUTRIENT NEEDS AS WELL. Yellow spots in the field may be linked to the developing crop’s need for nitrogen, which could be for a myriad of reasons, including insufficient fertilizer, application problems, leaching from heavy rains and more. For a lot more on this topic, check out an article on What are the Causes of Yellow Wheat from the Agronomy eUpdate. BTW, as of Sunday, April 5, the Kansas wheat crop was rated 3% very poor, 10% poor, 38% fair, 41% good and 8% excellent, according to the USDA-National Agricultural Statistics Service. It still has a ways to go until the harvest this summer. Let’s hope for great weather.

https://webapp.agron.ksu.edu/agr_social/article/what-are-the-causes-of-yellow-wheat-381-1

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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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