Better Kansas – Ideas for Living, Growing and Succeeding

Tag: preserving food

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

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.


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

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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.