Better Kansas – Ideas for Living, Growing and Succeeding

Tag: Extension Master Gardeners

Better Kansas – Sept. 19, 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. Share on social media and don’t forget to hit subscribe! – Mary Lou Peter

Better Living, Better Communities

FALL IS MY FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR for a variety of reasons and one of them is the abundance of all things apple at the grocery store, farmer’s markets and roadside stands. Apple pie, applesauce, or a fresh apple on its own, it’s all good. Whether you prefer the sweetness of Braeburns or the tartness of Granny Smiths, many varieties can be stored successfully for months under the right conditions. A recent Horticulture Newsletter provides a guide to how long different varieties hold up well under the proper conditions. Just don’t make my mistake and forget that they’re in that bottom drawer behind other things! If you don’t want to store them fresh and whole, you can always freeze or can them or make apple butter or jelly. Take a look at Preserve it Fresh, Preserve it Safe: Apples for how-to steps and recipes. Now if only we could do something about the shortening daylight that comes this time of year ☹.

WHILE WE’RE ON THE SUBJECT OF FALL, it’s about this time of year that we sometimes have outbreaks of oak leaf itch mites (known to the scientists as pyemotes herfsi). Once you’ve been bitten, you won’t forget them. They aren’t a problem every year, but in years and locations when they are, the bites, which are usually found on your upper body, are itchy and sometimes painful. And they can last a surprisingly long time! A maddening thing about these tiny creatures which are nearly invisible to the naked eye, is that you typically don’t know that you’ve been bitten until hours later or the next day. Take a look at the updated Oak Leaf Itch Mite fact sheet for pictures and more information, including where they live and why it’s so difficult to avoid them. An internet search just led me to a Wall Street Journal article “The Invisible Itch Mite Will Make You Nostalgic for Mosquitoes.” Do tell!


EVER HAD THAT EXPERIENCE WHERE YOU’RE STARTING A NEW JOB and had to pick a health insurance plan? So many big decisions in such a short amount of time! Or maybe you realized you don’t know what your plan covers … and what it doesn’t. Life is so complicated! Check out Health Insurance Smarts – Health Insurance 102 for information about choosing a plan, what terms such as coinsurance and deductibles mean, and things to consider when thinking about insurance costs.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

KANSAS EXTENSION MASTER GARDENERS DONATED NEARLY 106,000 POUNDS (53 tons) of fresh fruits and vegetables to food pantries last year to help feed their communities, and are well on their way to an equally generous season this year! That’s one of the ways extension works: university scientists conduct research, in this case on fresh produce. Those specialists share that research-based information with volunteers in the Kansas Extension Master Gardener program who in turn, educate the public by speaking to community groups, participating in garden shows, or growing and maintaining demonstration gardens. Those gardens give people like you and me a chance to see what we can grow at our own homes. From Wyandotte to Ellis and Sedgwick to Harvey counties, Kansas EMGs are busy across the state sharing their knowledge of flowers, fruits and vegetables. Interested? Check with your county or district extension office to learn about the opportunities.

IT’S TRUE, THERE’S A DIFFERENT SCENT IN THE AIR at a few K-State research centers around the state where studies of industrial hemp are in their first year. The 2018 Farm Bill cleared a path for farmers to explore the possibility of growing industrial hemp, which can be used in everything from CBD oil to paper products and rope, plus more. Though still in the beginning stages, the possibilities couldn’t come at a more welcome time with the prices of some crops traditionally grown in Kansas depressed for several years. Part of K-State’s role in industrial hemp research is to help determine which varieties grow best in different parts of the state and how irrigated versus non-irrigated plots perform. If found to be a good option for farmers, industrial hemp will likely be an alternative crop to be used in a rotation with more traditional crops such as corn or wheat. Check out a video.

IF YOU’RE IN THE LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION BUSINESS and want to know about upcoming events, research results and more, take a look at the monthly News from KSU Animal Sciences newsletter. The September 2019 edition has information about educational events for beef and swine producers, meat processors and a program specifically for youth. It also includes management tips for running your business, safety tips for those harvesting silage, research results and other topics.

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 – June 27, 2019

Header image for the Better Kansas Blog

Welcome to Better Kansas, a weekly update that touches on a few of the many events, resources and programs available around the state. For more resources and activities, check with the K-State Research and Extension office in your area. In the meantime, check our Better Kansas site for archived entries and to sign up. Share it with friends, family and colleagues! – Mary Lou Peter

Better Living, Better Communities

WHAT A RANGE OF EMOTIONS WE HAVE WHEN FIGURING OUT WHO WILL TAKE CARE OF OUR CHILDREN when we’re heading off to work or school. Maybe you’re considering a child care home where an individual cares for children in a home setting. How do you find a good one? They’re adorable, but babies and toddlers take time and a lot of attention! How many babies are allowed to be cared for by one individual? How many children can one person care for if all of the children are school aged? There are rules and regulations licensed child care homes must abide by in Kansas.  Choosing Care For Your Children: Child Care Homes is one of several K-State Research and Extension resources available that focuses on the ins and outs of choosing the best care for your kiddo.

REMEMBER THAT PROMISE YOU MADE TO YOURSELF EARLY THIS YEAR? The one about eating healthier? If you’re like me, it’s a good time to revisit that promise. Summer is a great time to try new fruits and vegetables! Go to your local farmer’s market or visit with someone in the produce section at your grocery store about what’s in season. Many even have or can direct you to recipes using those foods. The prices on

foods in season are often lower than at other times of the year, making them healthier for your budget, too. There are even foods that help keep you hydrated during the hot weather …. think watermelon! Check out the recent Sound Living podcast Healthy Summer Eating and get familiar with a list of when fruits and vegetables are typically in season in Kansas.

BY THE WAY, MANY FOODS CAN BE PRESERVED SAFELY NOW so you can enjoy the taste of the season long after the season is past. My mind is drifting to strawberry jam and pickles but there’s so much more you can do. Many K-State Research and Extension offices offer tips and training on safe food preservation including in Wichita on June 28 and in Topeka on July 9. Check with your local office to see if there’s one available near you. Even if there’s not, there’s great information on the Preserve It Fresh, Preserve It Safe web page.

Better Farming, Ranching and Gardening

DON’T MISS ONE OF THE VERY BEST AG BUSINESS CONFERENCES IN THE COUNTRY. The 2019 K-State Risk and Profit Conference is Aug. 22-23 at the K-State Alumni Center. Sara Wyant, president of Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc., leads things off as the keynote speaker at the opening lunch, followed by breakout sessions on tons of topics, industry exhibits, social time, dinner, and “A Conversation with a Kansas Producer.” And that’s just the first day. The second day features the grain and livestock market outlooks and more breakout sessions on even more topics, plus lunch. This is the place to be if you want relevant big-picture – plus regional and statewide – information on managing your farms and ranches.

If we’re lucky, we’ll get to hear the Pride of Wildcat Land Marching Band practicing next door again this year. What can I say? I was a band parent!

LOOKING FOR A BETTER WAY TO KEEP YOUR GARDEN AND LANDSCAPE WATERED? COLLECTING RAINWATER IS FREE! If you don’t already have rain barrels, there’s no time like the present to make a trip to the hardware store to get you started on implementing this efficient way to collect rain water for use in the landscape and to help protect water quality. And we’ve got step-by-step information to show you how in How to Build a Rain Barrel Part 1 and Part 2.

Several extension offices across the state have held workshops on how to make and use them. For example, K-State Research and Extension offices in Ellis, Russell and Ellsworth counties have teamed with the KSU Big Creek Middle Smoky Hill River Watersheds, the City of Hays & City of Ellis, Ellis County Master Gardeners, County Conservation District Offices in Ellis, Russell, & Ellsworth counties, and the Fort Hays State University Agriculture Department to build and distribute more than 6,500 rain barrels and kits, including to at least 15 states – even Alaska. That’s collaboration with great outcomes.

Check with the extension office in your area for more information.

SUMMER HAS BEGUN IN EARNEST, AND MANY OF US ARE FUSSING OVER OUR FLOWERS AND WONDERING WHEN watermelons will appear under those leaves. Take that green thumb of yours to the next level and become a Master Gardener! If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity with an educational component, the Extension Master Gardener program has your name on it. Some county and district K-State Research and Extension offices offer the program, which involves donating time in your community in exchange for horticultural training. It’s a great way to meet others and use your training to work at public gardens, garden shows, staffing horticulture hotlines, giving horticulture-related presentations or other activities. Last year alone, Master Gardeners in Kansas donated more than 103,700 hours for a total value of over $2.3 million.

Some extension offices are accepting applications RIGHT NOW. Check to see when and if yours does.

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