Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nature's Beauty

This beautiful lady was brought into the office today for identification.  She is a Marbled Orb Weaver and like most Orb spiders, she is not aggressive or dangerous to people.  Bites are rare and usually no worse than a wasp or bee sting.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tomato Time . . .

So now what do you do???  Well if you're wanting to freeze them, take a look at the info below.  Contact the Extension Office for more information.



Preparation – Select firm, ripe tomatoes with deep red color.
Raw – Wash and dip in boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen skins. Core and peel. Freeze whole or in pieces. Pack into containers, leaving l-inch headspace. Seal and freeze. Use only for cooking or seasoning as tomatoes will not be solid when thawed.
Juice – Wash, sort and trim firm, vine-ripened tomatoes. Cut in quarters or eighths. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes. Press through a sieve. If desired, season with 1 teaspoon salt to each quart of juice. Pour into containers, leaving headspace. Seal and freeze.
Stewed – Remove stem ends, peel and quarter ripe tomatoes. Cover and cook until tender (10 to 20 minutes). Place pan containing tomatoes in cold water to cool. Pack into containers, leavingheadspace. Seal and freeze.


Green Tomatoes

Preparation – Select firm, sound green tomatoes. Wash, core, and slice 1/4-inch thick.
For Frying – Pack the slices into containers with freezer wrap between the slices. Leave 1/2-inch headspace. Seal and freeze.

This document was extracted from "So Easy to Preserve", 5th ed. 2006. Bulletin 989, Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, Athens. Revised by Elizabeth L. Andress. Ph.D. and Judy A. Harrison, Ph.D., Extension Foods Specialists.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Kachumbar “chopped” salad

While this recipe originates in India, it veers far from its Indian heritage. In doing so, the resulting salad provides a unique twist on the
This salad is a riff on a salad that is common in northern India. Kachumbar salad is traditionally cucumber, tomato, onion, chili, and lemon juice. It is served with many meals as a side dish. Kachumbar is a Hindi word that literally means cut into small pieces. In fact, according to my friend and co-worker Surabhi who is from India, if someone has had a particularly hard day they may say “Aaj Kachumbar ban gaya” loosly translated means that the day chopped me up.
This version of Kachumbar adds tropical fruit for a Hawaiian twist. It keeps for several days in the refrigerator. You can vary the fruit depending on the season.
Kachumbar “chopped” salad
1 large tomato, chopped (1/2”)
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
4-5 green onions, chopped
1 jalapeƱo, finely chopped
1 mango, chopped
1/2 fresh pineapple, chopped (or 2 cups canned)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2-1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper                                                                 
juice from 1 lime

Combine all ingredients.

Compliments of Carolyn Dunn
Department Head, Professor and Nutrition Specialist
Youth, Family, & Community Sciences

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Yellow Jackets

Labor Day often signals the end of the summer is near and so many insects are also beginning to wind down their activity. Yellow jacket colonies likely peaked back in late July or early August but they are still quite active and even aggressive in foraging for food.  So, while people are outdoors celebrating this weekend at parks, the beach or just in their own backyard, more than just their invited guests will be waiting for hot dogs, burgers and other items come off the grill.  The inclination is swat the unwanted visitors are they try to taste what sitting on our plates.  That can trigger an aggressive response by the yellow jackets.  Another piece of advice to give people - drink from cups rather than cans.   While we're busy sitting at picnic tables talking, we may not notice a yellow jacket sipping soda from the top of the can or crawling inside to investigate this sugar (or beer) gold mine.  Pour the beverage into a cup.

Trash and recycle receptacles will also be wasp magnets and can also pose a problem in parks, athletic fields and other recreation areas and they need to be emptied before the overflow with trash or beverage bottles/cans.  A lot of people try those yellow jacket traps that are sold are hardware stores.  We still haven't seen data that shows that they are effective.  If yellow jacket nests can be find, treating them with a Wasp & Hornet spray is the best choice.  Use a product that propels the chemical 10+ feet so you have a running head-start when the wasps start streaming out of the nest.  Some of these products are foams which help envelope the opening to the nest.   I would suggest treating late in the evening because it's unlikely that you'll kill all of the wasps and the survivors may return in search of their now-unusable home.  Also, discourage people from using home remedies such as gasoline.  While it may be viewed as entertaining, it's obviously hazardous and environmentally unsound.  Some people place bowls or rocks over the opening figuring that this is a "low impact" alternative to chemicals.  However, I have reservations about this approach particularly if there are "inquiring little minds" that might investigate this situation and move the object with the obvious unintended consequences.   Another technique some people try is to pour boiling water down into the hole.  That may seem "safer" than a pesticide but consider that you have to carry the water over to the nest and pour it down the opening and hope some of the occupants don't emerge to "encourage" you to go elsewhere.    Yellow jackets are actually quite valuable as predators and so if the nest doesn't pose a health hazard to you or family family members or friends, "Let it be"....

Michael Waldvogel, PhD
Extension Assoc. Professor & Specialist, Structural & Industrial Pests
North Carolina State University
Dept. of Entomology, Box 7613, 100 Derieux Place
Raleigh, NC USA 27695-7613

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

IRS Repeats Warning about Phone Scams

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration continue to hear from taxpayers who have received unsolicited calls from individuals demanding payment while fraudulently claiming to be from the IRS.

Based on the 90,000 complaints that TIGTA has received through its telephone hotline, to date, TIGTA has identified approximately 1,100 victims who have lost an estimated $5 million from these scams. 
"There are clear warning signs about these scams, which continue at high levels throughout the nation,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment. This is not how we operate. People should hang up immediately and contact TIGTA or the IRS.”
Additionally, it is important for taxpayers to know that the IRS:
  • Never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone.
  • Never insists that taxpayers use a specific payment method to pay tax obligations
  • Never requests immediate payment over the telephone and will not take enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation. Taxpayers usually receive prior notification of IRS enforcement action involving IRS tax liens or levies. 
Potential phone scam victims may be told that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS or they are entitled to big refunds. When unsuccessful the first time, sometimes phone scammers call back trying a new strategy.
Other characteristics of these scams include:
  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.
  • Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
  • Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:
  • If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue, if there really is such an issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to TIGTA at 1.800.366.4484.
  • If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.
Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.
The IRS encourages taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the e-mail to
For more information or to report a scam, go to and type "scam" in the search box.
More information on how to report phishing scams involving the IRS is available on the genuine IRS website,

Promises of Debt Relief Meet Privacy Concerns

Why shouldn't you share your government-issued PIN (username and password) with student-debt relief organizations?

Because .... "Your PIN is the equivalent of your signature on any documents related to your student loan," Ms. DeMoss wrote. "If you give your PIN away, you give others the power to perform actions on your student loan on your behalf."
Increasingly, fraud schemes are directed at individuals with student loan debt, including data mining of national databases to obtain Personally Identifiable Information (social security numbers, etc.).  See the link below the excerpt for the entire story. 

Two weeks ago, the Education Department issued a warning to borrowers about student-debt relief companies. The department cautioned borrowers against trading personal information for private-sector assistance with student-loan consolidation.An investigation by the department’s inspector general found that some borrowers were sharing their federal student-loan personal-identity numbers with companies in the loan-service industry. According to a September 2013 report describing the inspector general’s findings, PIN sharing can create an opportunity for bad actors "to change and misuse the students’ personal data." Under the most-optimistic scenario, a debt-relief sales agent can use a borrower’s PIN to log into the student-loan database, assess an individual borrower’s debt burden, and provide the borrower with options for consolidation and repayment.
Read the story here:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mosquito Update - Chikungunya Virus

Mosquito activity will continue to rise as populations in rain-filled breeding sites mature and emerge as adults.  The recent media coverage about Chikungunya virus has sent many people into a frenzy buying all sorts of  traps or repellent devices for "controlling" mosquitoes.  There are a lot of products and homemade remedies being pushed as *the* fix to mosquito problems and so it's a good time to remind people of that well-worn adage about "If it sounds too good to be true.....".    For example, there is one product (that I won't mention in the interest of avoiding confrontation) whose website talks about its natural ingredient and how university-based research demonstrated that it repels mosquitoes.  The point to note is that they don't talk about their *product* being university-tested and proven to be effective. They leave it to the reader to assume that showing the chemical works means their product works similarly (which is not always the case).  So, people need to be smart consumers and read the website or product package (if they buy it locally) before they purchase one of these kinds of products.  We strongly recommend personal protection in the form of repellents, but we also recommend using a product with proven efficacy AND using it according to the product label.  We have a list of common products on our web page:     

A little about repellents - they keep mosquitoes from biting you but they don't do anything to get rid of mosquitoes.  Think about mosquito repellents like a highway detour.  You exit the highway, grumble a lot about it in the process, but inevitably you get to your destination and you may have actually found some place to stop and eat during the detour.  So, while wearing a repellent keeps you from getting bitten, the mosquito will likely detour and feed on someone else (or some other animal such as a bird, squirrel, etc.) and then lay eggs in some source of standing water.   This brings us back to the same list of suggestions that we tell people every time we talk about mosquito *management*: 

- Get rid of standing water wherever possible
- Be careful when treating mosquito resting/landing sites on foliage, lawns, etc., particularly when plants are in bloom and bees are out there visiting flowers.
- When using outdoor area foggers, avoid chemical drift.  Remove (or at least cover)  food prep equipment such as grills, as well as children's toys (and the children) along with your pets and their food/water bowls. Do not allow chemical to drift onto other people's property.

Why is Chikungunya virus less of a threat at this time?  Some people assume that it's similar to Ebola virus which has garnered much attention because it is a highly contagious and usually lethal disease that is spread directly from person to person.  In contrast, Chikungunya virus has to be transmitted by a mosquito.  So, a mosquito has to bite an infected person  and acquire the virus (which doesn't necessarily happen), then lay eggs before it bites another person and transfer the virus to them.  So,currently (and fortunately) there is a limited supply of infected people in the US for the mosquitoes to bite and most of those people have sought medical treatment for the disease.  This disease cycle is also different from the more common mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile Virus (WNV) because WNV usually resides in a ready supply of "reservoir hosts" - birds, which keep the virus present in areas of the country.  So, when a mosquitoes bite infected birds and subsequently bite people (and not all mosquito species feed on both birds and people), we see infection rates climb.

The bottom line is that Chikungunya virus is not a major threat in North Carolina but that does not mean people should neglect protecting themselves from mosquito bites because we have other diseases present and I expect that we'll hear of a few cases of LaCrosse Encephalitis (likely in western NC) or EEE showing up in horses within the next 2-3 weeks and likely in southeastern NC (but hopefully my prediction will be wrong).

Michael Waldvogel, PhD
Extension Assoc. Professor & Specialist, Structural & Industrial Pests
North Carolina State University
Dept. of Entomology, Box 7613, 100 Derieux Place
Raleigh, NC USA 27695-7613

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Black Bean and Corn Salsa


Makes 24 servings
Serving Size:  1/4 cup

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

  • 1 (16 - ounce) jar salsa
  • 1 (15.5 - ounce) can unsalted black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can unsalted corn kernels, drained or 1 1/2 cups frozen
  • 1 (14.4- ounce) can low-sodium chopped tomatoes, drained
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or 1 teaspoon dried (parsley may be substituted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)


1.  Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.
2.  Cover and chill for 30 minutes before serving.
3.  Serve with chips or as a vegetarian side dish

Nutrition Information Per Serving

35 calories, Total Fat 0g, Saturated Fat 0g, Protein 1g, 
Total Carbohydrate 8g, Dietary Fiber 1g, Sodium 190 mg 

Taken from:  Cooking with Steps to Health.  For more information and great recipes contact the office at (336) 372-5597.  Be sure to check back often.

Friday, March 21, 2014

4-H Plant Sale

Alleghany 4-H is currently taking orders for the 2014 Annual 4-H Plant Sale

The following types of plants are available to purchase:

  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Asparagus
  • Horseradish
  • Ferns
  • Herbs
  • Vegetables
  • Flowers

Order & Payment Deadlines:

For Blueberries ~ Thursday, March 27th
For All Other Plants ~ Monday, April 7th
Payment is due at the time the orders are placed.

Tentative Pick-Up Dates:

For Blueberries ~ April 1-2 (9am-5pm)
For All Other Plants ~ April 15-16 (9am-5pm)

CLICK HERE to print your plant description / order form or you may pick one up at the Extension Office. Call 336-372-5597 or email Michele Hamm for more information.

ALL proceeds are used for scholarships for youth to attend 4-H Camp & other 4-H programming.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Serving Safe Food

The Appalachian District Health Department, in conjunction with Wilkes Community College, is hosting Serving Safe Food on March 17-19, 2014.  Registration began February 17th and will continue until the class is filled (class size limited to 20).  The registration period for foreign language participants will be February 17-28th to allow time to order the books.

Click here for more information and for the enrollment form.  All applicants must register in person at the Alleghany County Health Department.

For more information, contact Kim Mazurek at 336-372-8813.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Extension Centennial - Photo of the Week

Early 4-H Corn Club members Absenia Johnson and Aron Johnson, of the Dawson 4-H Club in Scotland Neck examine their corn. The two brothers produced 80 bushels of corn on one acre. R.E. Jones took this photo Nov. 8, 1939.

With more than 237,000 young people between the ages of 5 and 19 participating, North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s 4-H youth development program is N.C.’s largest organization for children. It got its start in 1909, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture joined with N.C. State to offer corn clubs and other demonstration programs.
That year, I.O. Schaub was named the first boys’ and girls’ club agent, and the first club for boys was formed in Ahoskie. The idea was that young people might be more willing to experiment with college-recommended farm practices than their parents, but that the parents would eventually try the methods if they saw their children succeed with them.
Within a year, by working with county school superintendents, Schaub had an enrollment of 4,000 boys and even a few girls in what then was called Corn Club work.

Click on the link for more interesting facts about the Extension Centennial 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

FREE webinars for private water well owners

Upcoming FREE Webinars for private water well owners developed by the National Ground Water Association with support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The first of eight Webinars takes place January 28 with two more scheduled in February.

Register now by going to

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

National Radon Action Month

January is National Radon Action Month, which means you should test your home for the colorless, odorless gas, which is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers.
Radon is found in every state of the country.  It is a radioactive gas which is emitted as uranium, which is found in soil, decays. The gas rises through the ground reaching the air above through cracks in your home’s foundation where it becomes trapped and builds up within the walls of your house. Any home, new or old, with or without a basement, can test high for radon.

It is important that residents of Alleghany County check their Radon levels due to the county’s geologic makeup.  We are categorized as a Zone 1 which means on average, the county has a high potential for having homes with that would need mitigation. 

A limited number of kits are available FREE OF CHARGE at the Alleghany Extension Office, 90 S Main St, Sparta.  For more information contact the office at (336) 372-5597. 

Amy Lucas
Extension Agent – Family & Consumer Science
Alleghany Center
90 S. Main St., P.O. Box 7
Sparta, NC  28675
(336) 372-5597

Monday, January 6, 2014

Keeping Your Horse Comfortable During Cold Weather

The Christmas song, Baby it’s Cold Outside, made famous by Lee Ann Womack with Harry Connick, Jr., pretty well describes the winter to date.  To make matters worse, 650 one day, followed by 360 the next, is hard on humans and horses alike.   I have put on a jacket more times this winter than in the past 3 winters combined and more than once pulled out a heavy jacket for a 260 morning.  So, what about the comfort of your horse?

As is the case with humans, some horses handle cold temperatures better than others.  A normal Fall, when temperatures decline steadily over a 2 month period allows healthy horses to grow a full winter coat.  The normal equine winter coat will protect most horses from cold temperatures and wind but, throw in rain on top of wind and chilling temperatures and even the best of coats may not provide adequate relief.  This is the Rule of 2 Out of Three.  Simply put, a healthy horse can generally withstand a combination of two of the three extreme environmental conditions (wind, rain, cold temperatures) but may need assistance keeping warm when all three conditions exist in combination.  Then, there are always those horses that do not grow sufficient coats to handle even two of the three factors comfortably.

Options for helping horses handle the winter weather include, stabling the horse during extreme weather, blanketing the horse as needed or providing windbreaks that provide needed protection.  Just a quick word about stabling horses during the winter.  Most barns are built more for human comfort than for that of the horse.  Avoid heating barns if horses are going to be spending at least part of their time outdoors each day.  Research indicates that horse health is enhanced if the inside temperature of the barn is no more than 100 warmer than the outside temperature.  So, if the inside of your barn is more than 100 warmer than the outside, you may need to blanket your horses when turning them out.

So, when should you blanket your horse?  Answer: when all three of the above mentioned weather conditions exist or when the temperature drops low enough to make your horse uncomfortable.  Observe your horse multiple times each day to be sure it is not shivering.  A horse that is really cold may shiver like you and I do.  If your horse has a poor winter hair coat, you should anticipate this problem.  If the weather report calls for cold temperatures, wind and precipitation and horses do not have shelter, make plans to blanket those horses that need it.  Remember, just because your horse didn’t show signs of being cold during one weather event, does not mean it won’t the next time. 

Blankets come in all different sizes and colors and, like cars, come with many options.  Do you want a closed front or buckled/Velcro front?  How much insulation do you want?  What denier should the outer shell be?  Denier refers to the fineness of the yarn/thread that was used to make the product and thus, the ability of the material to keep wind and water out.  A higher denier indicates a higher level of protection and durability.  How much insulation do you want, 200 grams, 400 grams?  Do you want a cut-back neck line or regular?  The cut-back neck line works well for some horses and may actually help the blanket fit better. 
To provide the greatest comfort and to avoid slippage, a blanket should fit the horse properly.  Measure the horse from the center of the chest to the point-of-the-buttock (as viewed from the side) to determine proper blanket size.  Blankets may be sold according to the length in inches or as Small (60”-66”), Medium (69”-72”) or Large (>74”).  If you will turn horses out in a blanket during cold weather, it should be a heavy duty blanket with double stitching and reinforced stress points.

For extreme cases, you may also include a hood.  Hoods give extra protection and are made having most of the same properties as blankets.  Hoods should have large eye holes, so the horse can see effectively and usually attach to the blanket by means of one or more elastic straps so the horse may extend its head to the ground for feeding purposes.  Also, for horses turned out in a blanket, be sure the blanket and hood are waterproof.  During extended rain your horse will likely get at least partially wet anyway, but water proof materials will extend the protection and extend the life of the blanket. Higher quality blankets may include materials that actually wick-heat and moisture away from the horses skin if the horse gets too hot.  This is particularly helpful for young horses that may run and play while blanketed and when temperatures vary throughout the day. 

A couple of points to remember: 1.  We blanket the horse to protect it from the elements.  Some horses will actually sweat from being blanketed, especially if a hood is used in combination.  If your horse sweats while wearing a blanket, cool the horse and re-evaluate the need for a blanket at that temperature.  2.  When purchasing blankets for turnout, it is recommended that materials of greater than 1200 denier be used because of their strength and durability.  3.  In cold weather, feeding additional hay to horses will actually help generate more body heat than feeding an equal amount of additional grain; a practical way to keep your horse comfortable during cold weather. 

Dr. Mike Yoder
NCSU - College of Ag and Life Sciences
Extension Horse Husbandry

Friday, January 3, 2014

Information on Private Well Water

As we close out 2013 and welcome in the New Year,we wanted to share with you the first three in a series of free online private well owner lessons developed by the National Ground Water Association with support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The lessons and registration links are as follows:
1)      Testing Your Well Water: What should I test for?
2)      Testing Your Well Water: Getting a Test, Interpreting Results
3)      Treating Your Well Water: Contaminants That Present a Health Risk and Other Problems

These lessons are very simple and basic—zeroing in on some of the most essential facts that private well owners should know to protect their water quality.

Over the next eight months, NGWA will make as many as 15 lessons available. These short, learn-at-your-own-pace lessons with quizzes are intended to guide well owners to steps they can take and the help that they need.

ECA Leader Lesson Day

Just a reminder there will be an ECA Leader Lesson Day on Friday, January 10th at the Elkin Campus of Surry Community College.  Registration will begin at 10:00 a.m. and the general session will begin at 10:30 a.m. learning about Food Safety.

There will also be several other concurrent sessions during the day including Going Nuts, Triple D (Drowsy, Driving Dangers), Miniature Gardens, Paper Tulips and Across Generations.  If you are interested in attending, please contact the office at (336) 372-5597.

Worst weight-loss diet of 2013

Worst weight-loss diet of 2013

JANUARY 2, 2014
Professor and Nutrition Specialist4-H Youth Development/Family and Consumer Sciences
I have been in the nutrition field long enough to see some crazy diet trends. Cabbage and water diet, boiled egg and banana diet, the gummy bear diet…wow. While these diet trends are certainly not nutritionally sound, a couple of days and most folks run screaming back to some sort of normal diet. This year, however, marks a diet trend that is not only a nutritional nightmare but be harmful even in the short term and may cause major health problems or death.
Enter the cotton ball diet. The cotton ball diet prescribes that you soak 5 cotton balls in orange juice or a smoothie and eat prior to meals. The swallower of said cotton balls then is not hungry and does not eat or may not eat as much. Really?, cotton balls. Let’s break this down as to the dangers. First, cotton balls are not food grade; they are not even cotton. They are made of polyester fibers that have been chemically bleached. They are certainly not made for human (or any animal for that matter) consumption. Over time the chemicals could be harmful. In the short term, consumption of cotton balls also could cause an intestinal obstruction or a blockage both of which are serious and possibly fatal.
While I am calling this the “worse diet of 2013,” is not really a diet at all but a form of disordered eating. It points to an obsession to find an easy solution to eating smart and moving more to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Usually with crazy diet trends a few days will not kill you – this diet is the exception.  Even one day of the cotton ball diet could mean serious health issues.