Better Kansas – Ideas for Living, Growing and Succeeding

Month: May 2020

Better Kansas – May 28, 2020

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In today’s Better Kansas, we highlight strawberries, Medicare counseling, birdwatching, summer weather outlook and drones and robotics in agriculture. 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

STRAWBERRIES, THOSE YUMMY HEALTH-BOOSTING WONDERS OF NATURE are increasingly showing up in grocery sale ads, farmer’s markets and soon, in home gardens. They’re a great source of manganese and vitamin C, an antioxidant necessary for immune and skin health, plus a good source of folate (vitamin B9) and potassium. I like them in yogurt, but they’re so good on their own and over ice cream. And then there are strawberry pies and jellies! Take a look at Strawberries for great information if you’re growing your own. Also,  Preserve it Fresh, Preserve it Safe: Strawberries gives the scoop on freezing and canning, including step-by-step instructions for making strawberry jam and more.

 

IF YOU’RE ANYWHERE CLOSE TO THE AGE WHERE YOU ARE ELIGIBLE FOR MEDICARE, learning the difference between Parts A & B … and D can be daunting. And then there’s the onslaught of publications and invitations to free seminars about supplemental plan options that insurance companies bombard you with …. I’m told :). K-State Research and Extension agents throughout Kansas are trained as Senior Health Insurance Counseling for Kansas (SHICK) counselors who can work with you, a family member or friend for free to help you determine the best path as you navigate the choices. Click here for a list of extension agents who are trained as SHICK counselors and a map showing where they’re located.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

MOST OF US HAVE SPENT MORE TIME AT HOME LATELY BECAUSE OF COVID-19. When the days tend to blend together in that same space, simple things like taking walks, watching gorgeous sunsets and bird watching can be therapeutic. And feeding those birds is a surefire way to draw a (bird) crowd. Unlike us, it’s safe for them to congregate right now! Check out a series of Backyard Birding Guides on the Geary County extension website for terrific information on bird watching, bird feeding, landscaping for birds and more. It’s fun to see the dynamics between the birds that come to visit – there’s a definite pecking order! I knew a lot of birds like sunflowers, but apparently some, like the Dark-eyed Junco, want their sunflowers hulled … reminds me of some picky eaters I know! That handsome fellow at the feeder and his mate have taken up residency in my back yard.

KANSAS IS A STATE DIVIDED, AGAIN! No, this isn’t about politics or college sports. This time it’s about precipitation. A recent outlook brought to us by the Kansas Weather Data Library indicates that eastern Kansas will likely continue to receive above normal precipitation this summer, while drought is expected to persist in western Kansas, and may intensify. Take a look at the Summer Weather Outlook for Kansas for much more detail and great graphics. By the way, as of May 24, topsoil moisture supplies were rated 8% very short, 15% short, 59% adequate and 18% surplus, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Subsoil moisture was 7% very short, 17% short, 66% adequate and 10% surplus. Temperature-wise, we are expected to see warmer-than-normal temperatures for June-August in southwest Kansas, but neutral (equal chance of warmer- or cooler-than-normal) for the rest of the state.

 

WE’VE HEARD HOW DRONES ARE BEING USED BY THE MILITARY AND ROBOTICS BY MANUFACTURERS, but farmers also are using the technology to help grow the world’s food supply. Take a look at how rovers, robots and drones (aka unmanned aircraft) are being used for insect and drought stress detection and much more in the SEEK Research Magazine. So cool that a rover can detect insects in a field of sorghum, for instance, and spray only in the area where it’s needed. That way, less chemicals are used than if spraying a whole field – win-win for the farmer’s costs and the environment.

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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 – May 21, 2020

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In today’s Better Kansas, we touch on the Quarantine 15, Older Americans Month, free garden-focused webinars, first-ever virtual wheat field day and farmland leases. 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

SOME ARE CALLING IT THE ‘QUARANTINE 15’ … you know, that extra weight some of us have added since stay-at-home orders were announced. I’m not sure what about this pandemic has us obsessing about food, but it’s real. I thought maybe it was just me, but lately I’ve even seen TV celebrities talking about it. Could it be our constant proximity to the refrigerator? We couldn’t find our favorite mac and cheese at the grocery store? The canned food aisles were still pretty bare the last time I checked. Really, do that many other people love butter beans? Here’s a reminder to Move More, Sit Less.

 

CELEBRATE! I’VE JUST LEARNED THAT MAY IS A MONTH TO CELEBRATE OLDER AMERICANS and their contributions to communities in ways large and small. Such a good idea! We all know people who worked for years, only to retire, turn around and work some more – often in volunteer capacities. Take a look at Make Your Mark with Older Americans Month and the website Older Americans Month. Now, I’m not sure what’s considered “older” but I can say that threshold gets higher and higher with every birthday I have.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

NORMALLY THIS TIME OF YEAR, THOSE OF US WITH A GREEN (OR NOT SO GREEN) THUMB would be heading out to garden tours and other educational sessions, looking for the latest plant varieties and tips to help them thrive in the sometimes harsh Kansas climate. Oh, to find a vibrant new lily or a satisfyingly sweet cantaloupe! The current pandemic has us doing things differently, but that doesn’t mean the learning ends. Check out the K-State Garden Hour Webinar Series that offers a variety of topics, delivered online. Tomatoes, pollinators, house plants and bugs, we’ve got it covered. Plus, it looks like more to come.

 

K-STATE IS HOSTING ITS FIRST VIRTUAL WHEAT FIELD DAY, LIVE ON YOUTUBE THE EVENINGS OF MAY 27-28. It’s not exactly like hanging out with your fellow wheat growers, but we’re in unusual times and there are benefits to this approach. The two-part event offers different speakers and presentations each evening and you can participate for free from the comfort of your own home. No driving! Check out this news article for a lineup of speakers and topics. Or, at 7 p.m. on May 27, simply go to May 27 Wheat Field Day and at 7 p.m. on May 28 go to May 28 Wheat Field Day. And yes, there will be time for questions and answers.

WITH SO MUCH OF FARMLAND LEASED, A COMMON QUESTION IS HOW TO TERMINATE AN ORAL LEASE AGREEMENT IN FAVOR OF A MORE FORMAL WRITTEN ONE. Take a look at Ag Lease Law for the answer and other legal tips on agricultural leases. And check Land & Leasing for information on cropland and pasture rental rates, including the Pasture Rental Rate Decision Tool, which help cattle producers and landowners determine a fair rate.

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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 – May 14, 2020

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In today’s Better Kansas, we touch on stretching dollars, supporting communities, wind energy, tree and shrub challenges, meat supply disruptions and Kansas sunflower production. 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

NEWS THAT FOOD PRICES HAVE JUMPED, even as unemployment has skyrocketed largely due to COVID-19, just reinforces that we need to make the most of what we have. The Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index Summary reported May 12 that the price index for food at home in April posted its largest monthly increase since February, 1974. Resources that can help us be more efficient with what we have include Cook Once, Eat for a Month and When Your Income Drops, which include information about budgeting, resources and financial survival skills. These and much more are on the COVID-19 Resources page.

 

SUPPORTING COMMUNITIES and the individuals, families and businesses that comprise them is a focus of K-State Research and Extension. Through programs and activities, the Kansas PRIDE Program works with volunteers in communities across the state to make them even better places to live and work. Check out the May newsletter for more about what they’re up to. Kansas PRIDE is a partnership of KSRE, the Kansas Department of Commerce, Kansas Masons and Kansas PRIDE, Inc. And what a good idea, painting address numbers on curbs – important for first responders, but also for people like me who still aren’t sure which house when my GPS says I’ve reached my destination.

 

LAST WEEK I TOUCHED ON SOLAR ENERGY AND HOW IT’S HARNESSED TO POWER OUR HOMES AND BUSINESSES. In discovering that, I also learned that wind energy is a form of solar energy. Wait. What?! It’s because air is affected by pressure and temperature so methods of heat transfer such as convection, conduction, radiation, and advection relieve the temperature imbalances and are the driving forces for wind. This two-page article takes a complex subject and makes it as easy to read and understand as these things can possibly get.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

AS TREES AND SHRUBS START TO PUT ON THEIR LEAFY SPRING SHOW, it’s easier than ever to identify problems with Tree and Shrub Problems in Kansas. It’s a handy guide to whatever might ail our landscape plants, including pests, diseases and environmental stresses, and ways to manage the problems. Plus, it includes great photos. Nobody really wants a picture of dying trees UNLESS it can help us identify what’s going on in our own backyards, right?! Pine wilt, powdery mildew and Japanese beetles … we’re onto you!

 

 

THE TEMPORARY CLOSURE OF SOME MEAT PACKING PLANTS LINKED TO COVID-19 is leaving grocery meat cases less full and on the other end of the supply chain, livestock producers with animals that were ready to go to market… like two weeks ago. Whether you’re a consumer or a producer … or just curious about how this all works, this fact sheet by experts  will shed light on the market disruption and what it means for the cattle industry.

 

MANY OF US LEARNED AS CHILDREN THAT THE SUNFLOWER IS OUR STATE FLOWER. The state legislature designated it so in 1903. But there’s a lot more to them than the gorgeous golden addition they add to our landscape. In fact, Kansas is the 4th largest commercial sunflower grower in the U.S. In 2018, 89 million pounds of sunflowers worth more than $16 million were grown on 65,000 acres across the state. Sunflower seeds make a healthy snack or salad topper and oil produced from them is used as cooking oil. And, oh yes, birds love them. Many commercial bird seed mixes have sunflower seeds as a main ingredient. If you’re a grower or are thinking about it, check out Agronomy’s Sunflowers page and 2019 Kansas Performance Tests with Sunflower Hybrids.

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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 – May 7, 2020

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This week in Better Kansas I shed a little light 😊 on solar energy, preserving fresh produce, a farmer’s generosity, butterfly habitat, a wheat threat and farm-focused online gatherings – all to help 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

WE KNOW THAT THE SUN EMITS SOLAR ENERGY BUT UMMM… I NEVER KNEW how it’s collected and turned into energy we can use. A great two-page fact sheet covers the basics. The amount of solar radiation hitting Earth in just one hour is enough to produce more energy than the entire world population used in 2001. And there are a variety of technologies and processes used to collect and utilize solar energy. This is a great one to spark conversation with those kiddos you’ve been spending so much “quality time” with lately! 😊

 

SOME OF US ALREADY HAVE VEGETABLES PLANTED AND THEN THERE ARE THE REST OF US. Either way, if you want to preserve this year’s fruit and vegetable harvest, take a look at Preserve it Fresh, Preserve it Safe for all kinds of good information. The latest newsletter gives tips on preserving broccoli and cauliflower and the page has links to helpful videos, including many in Spanish. The very night I planted a tomato plant this week I learned that we may have a freeze this weekend. I have a feeling I’m going to be tucking it in with a blanket for a couple of nights and crossing my fingers. 

 

HERE’S A P.S. TO AN ALREADY WONDERFUL STORY: You may have heard about the retired Troy, Kansas farmer who sent a N95 mask to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to provide to a front line worker and the governor’s grateful and heartfelt response? Amid now months of devastating pandemic and economic news, this was one of those bright spots that I just had to share … years after that farmer left school just short of a bachelor’s degree, he’s now a college graduate. Don’t miss the rest of the story.

 

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

PUTTING NEW PLANTS INTO YOUR LANDSCAPE THIS SPRING? CONSIDER BUTTERFLY FRIENDLY PLANTINGS. This has been on my mind since I saw a butterfly habitat in a Minnesota neighborhood a couple of years ago. Take a look at a video on the topic that can help get us started, plus a terrific fact sheet with great pictures that focuses on the incredible monarch butterfly, whose numbers are dwindling and need our help. They REALLY like various types of milkweed, but also verbena, echinacea, sunflower, beebalm and a lot more. Kansas is one of 10 states targeted as critical in a national plan to support the monarch migration to Mexico where they overwinter. Overwintering in Mexico sounds like a great plan to me!

WE’VE BEEN PRETTY FOCUSED ON A PARTICULAR THREAT THIS PAST COUPLE OF MONTHS, but wheat growers have yet another one to watch for. It’s wheat stripe rust, a disease caused by the fungus Puccinia striiformis. Wheat stripe rust is a threat to wheat crops around the world because it cuts into yields and in turn, into a farmer’s bottom line. A recent Agronomy eUpdate article says now’s the time to scout your fields for the symptoms, including long stripes of yellow or orange blister-like lesions on the plant’s leaves. For great photos and even more in-depth information, check out Wheat Stripe Rust.

A FEW WEEKS AGO, I PASSED ALONG INFORMATION ABOUT ONLINE “GATHERINGS” for farmers, ranchers and those in related industries, focused on the economics of agriculture during the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is still with us and continues to roil commodity markets. The online events, at 7 p.m. on Thursday evenings, have proven so popular that we’re doing more. Coming up are:

May 7 – More on Livestock Markets – Glynn Tonsor, livestock market specialist

May 14 – More on Grain Markets – Dan O’Brien, grain market specialist

May 21 – 2019 Kansas Farm Income Report – Kevin Herbel and Mark Dikeman, KFMA

Register for the online gatherings or see previous sessions on the webpage.

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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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