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The Urban Farm – Winter Update

I know I told you all that The Urban Farm was done for the season, but actually there is something important going on right now that will be critical to our success in 2017.  The cover crop seed I planted in November has been slowly growing and helping the overall soil health.  It was very fortunate that we lucked out with lots of rain and moderate temps for the first half of winter.  I go to the farm and take pics every few weeks or so.  Here is the timeline in pictures:

shortly after germination, picture taken on November 29th

picture taken December 7th

some great growth so far. Picture taken January 3rd

Picture taken January 19th.

As soon as the daylight hours increase and it gets warmer, the rye will take off like a rocket, easily getting over 3 – 4 feet tall.

Save the Date!! Seed Starting Class at Bishop Educational Garden, Wednesday March 1st.

OSU Extension and Hocking Soil and Water Conservation District will be partnering to present a FREE workshop at Bishop Educational Gardens, the home of Lilyfest, on Wednesday March 1st from 6:30 to 8pm.

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Basic techniques for starting your own flowers, herbs and vegetables will be demonstrated as well as a discussion on how to construct your own home growing environment.

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Registration is recommended to ensure we have enough seating.  Bring your questions and your friends.  Bishop Educational Garden is located at 13200 Little Cola Rd. Rockbridge, OH 43149  (click for google map)

For more information or to register contact Rebecca Miller, HSWCD,  at 740-385-3016 or Tim McDermott OSUE at 740-385-3222 or email to McDermott.15@osu.edu

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Banishing Bed Bugs

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This article was originally published in The Journal on December 19, 2016.

Recently I heard through the county grapevine that there have been some local cases of bed bugs (Climex lectularius). I have not identified any infestations myself and I hope that will still be true in 2017. In any case, it is always good to be prepared to address a situation such as this. So, let’s start by debunking a prevalent myth about bed bugs:

“Only dirty people get bed bugs.”- False. This is absolutely false.

The spread of bed bugs is more related to the movement of people than it is to cleanliness. However, it may be more difficult to treat or diagnose a case of bed bugs in cluttered spaces and within displaced groups of people, rather than in a spotless environment. Bed bugs are arachnids that are exclusively mobile by crawling. They are sensitive to light and will hide in dark crevices, such as bed frames, mattress seams, and base boards, which is why people often notice bites before they notice bugs. The most obvious sign of bed bug presence is black speckles of feces on crevice surfaces. Bed bugs often use carpeted areas to approach new hosts and climb into luggage, purses, clothing and more.

After hitching a ride to a new environment, they make a new home in your home. You probably won’t notice the first day, or even the first week. That means that by the time you do notice them, they have multiplied. A female bed bug typically lays about five eggs daily throughout her lifespan, which can range from 6-12 months. Eggs hatch into the first of five nymph stages within 4-12 days. Although bed bugs require a feeding between each nymph stage, they can survive for extended periods of time without a meal.

Biting occurs at night and there is usually no pain to the host during the act of biting. Residual effects of the bite can cause mild to moderate skin irritation for 1-2 weeks. Bed bugs rarely transmit disease.  All in all, they are a severe annoyance that is very challenging to eliminate without professional intervention.

If you suspect that you have bed bugs in your home or business get a positive ID. Sticky traps near hiding areas are effective for collecting specimens. Another method that works well is to use clear tape to capture a specimen and secure it to a white or clear surface. Then examine the specimen to confirm if it is or is not a bed bug. Professionally assisted eradication is the most effective method for ridding your environment of these pests. It is very difficult to get effective control using only cultural methods or only with pesticides. It will require a combination of both and may take multiple attempts. Always check furniture for signs of bed bugs when you spend the night away from home and also check before bringing new furniture into your home.

If you fear that you have encountered bed bugs while traveling, there are steps to take to reduce the risk of spreading them to your home. Upon your return, bag and seal clothing and other belongings before you enter and immediately heat treat whatever you can in the dryer. Proceed to washing items in hot water and drying them again. Exposure to high heat will kill bed bugs. Vacuum any upholstery or carpet that you may have contacted on the way in.

Getting bed bugs is not the end of the world, but it can be embarrassing and difficult to treat. I hope that you do not encounter bed bugs, but if it happens hopefully you will know what to do after reading this article.bed_bug_lifecycle

Try, Try, Again

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This article was also printed in The Journal on October 3, 2016.

This spring I had an idea to start a research project by planting some grass seed. I shared the idea with some of my mentors and colleagues and we got to work. It seemed simple enough, but I didn’t get the results that I hoped for. Despite my efforts to create good conditions for the seed, the grass did not establish. Instead, I grew a great big patch of weeds. Oh, how disappointing it was to see so many cocklebur plants and foxtail stems where my grass was supposed to be. I looked at it and wanted to throw in the towel. I had plans for that grass, but it wasn’t there. Now what do I do? Can I fight off these weeds? Do I give up on my project idea? Do I start all over? After thinking all this over and asking for advice, we decided that the project idea is still good. Just because the grass didn’t establish this spring, doesn’t mean it is a lost cause. One thing is for sure, it certainly won’t work if we don’t try. So far, it seems like this project has been a failure, but the only way it can really fail is if we give up. So, I am trying again.

My friend Doug had a similar experience this summer. Doug has specific plans in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to put in a strip of pollinator friendly plants along a section of his property. In order to follow the developed plan, he would have to wait until Spring 2017 to get started. Doug wanted to get a head start and do something beneficial this year. He had an idea to plant buckwheat this summer in the location where his pollinator plants would go in 2017. Buckwheat is a short-season annual plant that is versatile and low maintenance. Bees, butterflies, deer, and turkeys find it attractive, the grain can be used to make flour for human consumption, and it is very useful as a cover crop and green manure. After investigating his options and talking to people who had success growing buckwheat he decided to plant some.

Doug followed the directions for planting the seed, but the buckwheat didn’t come up within the time frame he expected. He inspected the field and the only remnants of the seed he found were damaged or dead. He called me concerned that he had done something wrong. We kicked around ideas, but were unable to pinpoint exactly what happened. Despite the setback, Doug didn’t give up. He replanted the strip of land with a fresh supply of seed. At the beginning of September, I got a message from Doug with photos of a long strip of white flowers that read, “Hi Christine, So…What do you think of my buckwheat?” “Wow! It’s beautiful!”, I responded.

It truly was beautiful, not just the image of the gorgeous spicebush swallowtail butterfly that sat gracefully perched on a cluster of flowers, but the reassurance that what may appear to be failure on the first try, can blossom into success. Let’s face it, no one is an expert at something they’ve only tried once. We’ve heard the saying a hundred or more times, but let’s keep saying it so we don’t forget, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.”


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Giving Thanks for Ohio Agriculture

Did you know that so far this year Ohio has produced enough young, chilled or frozen turkeys that each Ohioan could eat up to 12 lbs. of turkey and there still be leftovers? Yum, that is a lot of healthy protein. It is incredible to see how diverse our agricultural production is when you look at the numbers from our great state. I hope that the spread on your Thanksgiving dinner table will include at least one local favorite. Get lunch ready before you read on, because this is going to make you hungry.

I’m drooling already thinking about dipping succulent turkey into a serving of fluffy mashed potatoes. When you think potatoes you probably think Idaho, but Ohio produced a fair 2.76 million lbs. of potatoes in 2015. What goes better on the side of a great meal than a flaky croissant roll? Thanks to Ohio wheat growers, soft red winter wheat production is forecasted at 44.8 million bushels. Broken down into terms you can throw around for family trivia, 1 bushel of wheat can be milled into 42 lb. of white four, which is enough to make more than 70 dozen dinner rolls. As for pumpkin pie, you can eat up while eating local. Last year’s pumpkin production was nearly 8.5 million lbs. Not a pumpkin fan? Apple is delicious too and also a thing to be proud of. Already in 2016 apple production has surpassed 42 million pounds. That is about 4 lbs. of apples per Ohioan. Isn’t that amazing?

Now, if you’re trying to keep things healthy this year, hidden calories can be found all over the table. Butter is one of those things that can really enhance flavor. It can also be easy to get carried away with how much we add to our meal. In contrast to criticism by the public for many years, it has actually been proven that butter is a healthy choice for families in moderation. Moderation is the key. One tablespoon of butter is about 100 added calories to your side dish. Real whipped cream is delectable on top of a dessert, but it also can also be one of those overlooked calorie additions. Depending on what type you use one tablespoon could add 25 calories or more. Rethink your drink too if you’re monitoring sugar intake. Water in your cup will help you savor the flavor of what is on your plate. Ohio State Extension has a variety of information that can help you prepare a safe, healthy, and happy Thanksgiving dinner. Feel free to give us a call or visit ohioline.osu.edu and click on “Food” to see the factsheets we have available anytime, day or night.

Basic Disease Prevention Goes a Long Way in Herd Health

Caring for groups of livestock and groups of young children share many similarities when it comes to disease prevention and control. I am reminded of this a week after Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD) came home with our daughter for the third time since August. Since they often inhabit the same spaces, they eat, drink, and play together. Both young children and livestock taste surfaces while exploring their environments. It’s wonderful for developing social skills and also wonderful for spreading pathogens. Neither toddlers or livestock can effectively wash their bodies after every encounter with an infected individual or contaminated surface. As caregivers, we have to do our best to prevent disease from entering the system, because once it is there, control becomes increasingly challenging. Some illnesses can be treated effectively with antibiotics, but the more we use antibiotics, the greater resistance is built within the bacterial population. Not to mention, that viruses (like HFMD) cannot be treated with antibiotics. Given all this, the best way to fight illness is through prevention.

Beginning on January 1, 2017 Veterinary Feed Directives (VFDs) will be required for use of any fed antibiotics for livestock that are also medically important for humans. A VFD is similar to a prescription, but does not need to be filled by a pharmacist, only approved by your veterinarian. Feed stores can continue to sell feeds and minerals containing antibiotics, but the seller must have a current VFD to buy them. Antibiotic feeds have been used for years as ways to prevent and treat bacterial illnesses in livestock and this has helped improve herd health. In conjunction, antibiotic feeds have been used unethically by some parties to promote weight gain or to compensate for sub-par management practices. Research has shown and concluded that overuse of antibiotics increases resistance to their effectiveness in the long run. Therefore, it is important for human and animal health to only use antibiotics when disease is a present threat (not just suspected) and in an ethical manner.

There are many ways to stop disease before it starts and they have been identified for livestock producers in quality assurance (QA) guidelines. To quote the Good Production Practices (GPP) factsheet, “It is every animal owner’s responsibility to assure that proper management and welfare are at the core of animal care.” There are ten core GPPs:

  1. Use an appropriate veterinarian/client/patient relationship as the basis for medication decision-making.
  2. Establish and implement an efficient and effective health management plan.
  3. Use antibiotics responsibly.
  4. Properly store and administer animal health products.
  5. Follow proper feed processing protocols.
  6. Establish effective animal identification, medication records and withdrawal times.
  7. Practice good environmental stewardship.
  8. Maintain proper workplace safety.
  9. Provide proper animal care.
  10. Utilize tools for continuous improvement.

These are the core guidelines for herd health. Inevitably, disease will still get through our barriers on occasion. When it does consult your veterinarian about how to treat the herd, whether it be with medication, isolation of infected animals, or improved practices. The best things you can do in preparation for VFD implementation in 2017 is to establish and maintain a relationship with your veterinarian and follow QA guidelines.

The Urban Farm – fall harvest has started

The Urban Farm is now actually a farm.   The paperwork has been processed and we have gotten permission to proceed through the Ohio Senior Farmer’s Market voucher program.  Harvest started on some herbs from our own beds with some fresh fruit from the Chesterhill produce auction.  Sam will come up with some recipes based on what we have to sell seasonally.  We have apples, seckel pears and an assortment of fresh herbs including rosemary, thyme, sage and oregano right now.   I am thinking pork chops with sage and apples myself.

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While there is only one more week left in the voucher program,  these are also available for sale to the public.  Stop by The Southeast Ohio Regional Kitchen but do not dawdle,  once they are gone, they are gone.  Each box costs 5 dollars.  To order a box as well as some other great produce deals CLICK HERE FOR THE ORDER FORM FROM THE KITCHEN

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Save The Date! Update on the Veterinary Feed Directive Wednesday January 11th, 7pm

Changes will soon occur to hundreds of antimicrobial applications for livestock by the end of the year.   These changes will add the need for Veterinary oversight on how medically important antibiotics can be used in food and water in livestock.

A presentation on the basics of what the Veterinary Feed Directive rules will be going forward and how it will impact local producers will be held at the Youth Center at the Hocking County Fairgrounds on Wednesday January 11th at 7pm.

 

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Soil Sampling – Now is a Great Time to Start

It’s that time of year again, and I’m not talking about football or the changing of the seasons. It is soil testing time! Right now is the best time to test your soil. According to the former director of West Virginia University’s state soil testing laboratory, soil samples taken in late summer and fall are better than those taken in winter through spring because they come closer to representing the soil’s nutrient level as it affects plants.

Why test soil? Proper fertility is the foundation for successful crops, gardens, and lawns. Soil testing provides information about the nutrient level of the soil and the amounts of lime and fertilizer needed to maximize production.

To obtain proper lime and fertilizer recommendations for your soil, it is important to send a high quality soil sample to the lab for analysis. The soil sample collected needs to be representative of the area being tested. For small areas and lawns, take 7 to 10 randomly selected soil borings. For a large field, subdivide into 10 acre plots and take 20 – 30 borings for each 10 acre plot. Avoid taking borings from abnormal areas (wet spots, bare spots, eroded areas, etc.); for it will not be representative of the sampling area.

Most OSU extension offices have a soil probe to loan out so call ahead to check the availability of the probe – it really makes taking a soil boring much easier and quicker. Using an auger, shovel, spade, or soil probe and a clean plastic pail or container, remove vegetation and take small uniform cores or thin slices from the soil surface to the recommended depth (contact OSU Extension office for depth recommendation).

Mix the borings together by gently crushing the soil. Discard any roots, stones or any other organic matter; like grass, leaves, worms, etc. Then take a sample of all the mixed borings; about one cup of soil. A wet soil sample must be air-dried in in a shady clean spot before mailing.  Never heat the sample or put it in direct sunlight.

Place the sample into in a plastic zip-lock bag and label it. Lastly, deliver the soil sample to a soil testing service center or the local extension office. Allow up to three weeks for the samples to be processed and results made available. The soil sample results will make recommendations on how much lime and fertilizer to add. Just remember, lime is typically added in the fall and fertilizer is typical added in the season it is needed.

For more information about soil testing, please contact your local OSU Extension office or click the link to OSU’s factsheet, “Soil Testing for Ohio Lawns, Landscapes, Fruit Crops, and Vegetable Gardens”: http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-1132