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.