Tuesday, December 26, 2017


Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

During the lull between Christmas and New Year’s, how many of you are thinking of resolutions or ways to improve?  I suspect that it is almost second nature to many of us.  I hope that after today all of us be a little bit more successful in attaining goals no matter the time of year.

When looking at setting a resolution, remember to make it SMART.  Make it Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.  What exactly does your resolution accomplish?  Why do I want to accomplish this?  Think about your resolution.  In terms of measuring it, how will you know if you’ve succeeded?  What are the steps you need to take each day/week/month to achieve the goal?  Do you have the resources to accomplish this goal?  Will the steps you have planned help you attain the goal?  Is your goal relevant?  Can you commit to this goal?  Will you not be able to reach another goal or do something else you want to do because you are working towards this goal?  Last, what is the time limit for your resolution?  Maybe your goal is something that will take longer and be of a larger perspective, or perhaps it is a short-term goal. 
Setting SMART goals can help you decide if the goal is a good fit for you as it is, or if you need to revise it to ensure success.  It is often best to start with the “time-bound,” “specific” and “measurable” and then review them for being “attainable” and “relevant.”  An example of a goal that isn’t quite SMART would be, “I want to take a trip to Europe in October for my birthday.”  Not quite effective, right?  The same goal, after being put through the SMART process by an individual, might look like this:

Specific – I want to take a two-week trip to Ireland with my family for my birthday in October of 2018.  Measurable – I need to save $4,000 to cover flight costs, lodging, transportation and miscellaneous costs based on my research.  Time-bound – October is 10 months away.  That means I need to save $444 a month until October to have my $4000 set aside to cover costs.  Attainable – $444 is a lot of money a month for me to set aside when I also am saving for a car.  Relevant – I am not sure I can commit to this goal.  It might set me back from getting my car; perhaps I should plan for a different trip.  Having decided this goal is too much at this time, the process can be repeated; this time, the new goal could be to take a trip to a Seattle for five days and save a considerable amount of money.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Last minute Christmas gift ideas

Last minute Christmas gift ideas
Kari Lewis

With just five days left before Christmas, crunch time is on for you last minute shoppers!  If you still have a few folks on your Christmas list, I have a couple great ideas for you!

We still have Greytak calendars available in our office for just $10.  These calendars feature unique pencil drawings of Montana agriculture scenes and are done specifically for Montana 4-H each year.  The proceeds from the calendar benefit the Glacier County 4-H Council and the Montana 4-H Foundation, which provide support for training and materials to members and leaders.  Both the Glacier County 4-H Council and Montana 4-H Foundation are great organizations to support if you’re looking to make a year-end contribution as well.

 My next Christmas gift suggestion is a registration to Montana’s Next Generation
conference, which is January 26 and 27, 2018, in Shelby.  This is a great gift for your spouse, parents, in-laws, or adult children, and could just be the gift the gift that keeps on giving as you gain tips from Elaine Froese to improve communication and working relationships within your family on your farm or ranch operation.  “Like many producers, I have multiple roles in my southwestern Manitoba seed farm,” Elaine said. “I am a farm family coach, owner of a farm business, spouse to the farm manager, mother to the successor and a mother-in-law, and I need to maintain harmony and a connection to my team in all those roles.”  Elaine will share valuable insight on how harmony within the family operation is possible, which could even make those holiday dinners more enjoyable!

The Friday, January 26 session will also feature Amanda Radke, BEEF magazine contributor, blogger, and rancher from South Dakota who will share what has been done in her family’s operation to allow her and her husband to return as the 5th generation. 

The Saturday, January 27 session features 6 sessions of workshops, with you having the opportunity to pick from 6 different options each hour.  There will be several new speakers this year, including Scott Shearer, an international trade expert; Breeann Johnson, water rights, Indian law and agriculture attorney; Rachel Endecott, MSU Extension beef cattle specialist; Gary Sides, beef and feedlot nutritionist with Zoetis; and Dr. Jeanne Rankin, MSU Extension associate specialist.
The speakers will offer information on multiple topics, including soil amendments and micronutrients, dealing with drought, planning for profit, artificial insemination protocols, tightening the calving window and expected progeny differences, hay production, technology in farming, and more.
Registration for Montana’s Next Generation conference is available at an ‘Early Bird’ rate until January 12, and information is available on mariasriverlivestock.com.  Please contact our office if you’d like us to put together a gift certificate for you to share this gift with a friend or family member.  Not only will the education be great, but the food will be top notch and the fellowship with friends and neighbors is always a welcome mid-winter break as well.

Don’t forget to stop by our office for a Greytak calendar and to sign up for Montana’s Next Generation conference.  From our office to your family, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and holiday season!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Poinsettias- Poisonous or Not?

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

I enjoy bright colors and there are plenty of bright colors at this time of year with Christmas decorations abounding.  One of the bright colors I especially like is the poinsettia, so this week sit back and enjoy the facts I have for your regarding this seasonal plant.  I have shared this with you before but feel it was worth repeating.

I grew up hearing different and negative things about this Christmas plant, especially regarding its toxicity.  I hope to provide you with some fact based information from Extension sources, as well as a bit about the history of the plant in the U.S.
Poinsettias were introduced into the United States by Joel Poinsett.  Joel Roberts Poinsett was the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, being appointed by President John Quincy Adams in the 1820's.  Because of his interest in botany he introduced the American elm into Mexico.  During his stay in Mexico he wandered the countryside looking for new plant species.  In 1828 he found a beautiful shrub with large red flowers growing next to a road.  He took cuttings from the plant and brought them back to his greenhouse in South Carolina.  Even though Poinsett had an outstanding career as a United States Congressman and as an ambassador he will always be remembered for introducing the poinsettia into the U.S.

According to the Poison Control Information Center, the average person would have to eat 500 to 700 poinsettia leaves before he would have a serious problem.  Of course, some people are more sensitive than others.  So, one leaf may cause some digestive problems for a very sensitive person.  Poinsettias are a member of the Euphorbia family and the white, milky latex sap may cause eye and skin irritations in people sensitive to the sap.  These plants are best classified as "possibly toxic" and not poisonous.  From a study at the Ohio State University it was shown that a 50 pound child who ate 500 bracts might have a slight tummy ache.  So, while you may not want to make a habit of eating the leaves of the plant, it isn’t the deadly plant that it is sometimes made out to be.
Enjoy this beautiful flower during the Christmas season, as I do.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

I really enjoy the seasonal flowers that appear this time of year, especially the amaryllis. Many university Extension systems have information on the amaryllis so I wanted to summarize some of those sources this week to share with you.
Amaryllis are native to tropical and subtropical areas of the Americas.  They come in several colors, including red, pink, orange, salmon, white, and bicolor varieties.  Single-flowering, double flowering, and miniature amaryllis varieties are available.  Two to six flowers are produced on each flower stalk. 

When purchasing amaryllis, select large, solid bulbs that show no sign of shriveling or decay.  The largest bulbs often produce 2 flower stalks.  When planting an amaryllis bulb, select a pot that is approximately 1 to 2 inches wider than the diameter of the bulb.  The container can be made from just about any material possible but should have drainage holes in the bottom.  Plant the bulb in a good, well-drained potting soil.  Add a small amount of potting soil in the bottom of the pot and center the bulb atop the soil in the middle of the pot.  Then add additional potting soil, firming it around the roots and bulb.

The sun-loving amaryllis grows best indoors in a well-lighted area that receives at least four hours of direct sunlight each day.  A southern window exposure is best.  Keep the bulb in a slightly moist soil condition until flowering and then increase the frequency of watering.  It is best to water your plant when the soil surface feels dry to the touch.  Watering once per week is usually adequate.

Amaryllis prefers warm temperatures of 70 to 75 °F for best growth until the roots form and the leaves and flower stalk begins to grow.  Once the plant flowers, cooler temperatures of 65 °F will prolong the life of the flower.  Fertilizing an amaryllis bulb that has no leaves can kill the roots, but after the plant begins to grow fertilize twice a month.
After flowering, the secret of successfully growing amaryllis is to keep the plants actively growing after they finish blooming.  Remove the blossoms as soon as they fade to prevent seed formation by cutting the stem off just above the bulb.  Place in a sunny window.  During the next several months growth is active and should be encouraged for future bulb development.

There are several things that you need to do to re-flower your potted amaryllis.  First, stop watering and fertilizing it for 8 to ten weeks.  The leaves will yellow and wither.  When you see the top of the flower bud beginning to emerge, put the pot in a sunny area and start watering it again.  Remove all dry foliage.  As the flower stalk begins to lengthen, rotate the plant every few days to prevent the stem from leaning towards the light.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Crucial Conversations - Tips for having, not avoiding, tough conversations

Kari Lewis
MSU Extension - Glacier County

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a Crucial Conversations training led by Paul Lachapelle, an MSU Extension Community Development specialist.  Today I’ll share a bit of that training.

The idea for Crucial Conversations, that if we don’t talk it out, we end up acting it out.  Crucial conversations are talks where there’s opposing opinions, strong emotions, and high stakes. 

The first step in a Crucial Conversation is to identify where you are stuck.  Are there bad results you want to fix, good results you currently aren’t able to achieve, or continual problems?  This is an appropriate time to think CPR: Content (is this a single incidence?), Pattern (what recurring behavior is there?), and Relationship (how is this situation affecting your relationship?). 

Before beginning a conversation, we need to make sure our motives are healthy and seeking truth.  The first thing that deteriorates during a crucial conversation is not our behavior, but our motive.  We tend to see people not as THEY are, but as WE are, and project our wants, needs, experiences, and values on them (good or bad).  We may need to retrain our brain to think about what WE need together, versus just what I want.

It is also crucial to separate fact from story.  The three common story types are “It’s not my fault!” (the victim), “It’s all your fault!” (the villain) or “There’s nothing I can do, anyway!” (The helpless). 

As we talk, we need to state our facts, tell our story, ask for the other person’s ideas and viewpoints, talk tentatively, and encourage feedback.  Some examples of these include phrases such as, “Based on these facts, it leads me to conclude….”  “Can you help me understand….” Or “How do you see it?” instead of “Don’t you think that…”  We should also strive to avoid absolutes such as “The only reasonable option is….” and instead, use phrases such as, “One solution that may meet our goals would be to….” 

To build a safe environment for these conversations, there needs to be mutual purpose (recognizing shared goals) and mutual respect (caring about each other and your relationship), and it helps to paraphrase the other side’s story as you go.

Lastly, it’s critical to move to action.  This is where the issues have been established and you determine who does what by when, a follow-up time is set, and there is accountability for follow up. 
Most everything I’ve talked about today is often easier said than done, but the reality is we only get better at these conversations by having these conversations.  Research shows that nearly 2 in 3 of us say a conversation gone wrong has permanently damaged a relationship, and over half of us say the effects of a life-altering conversation we’ve had will last forever.  I encourage you to apply these ideas in your next crucial conversation, and remember George Bernard Shaw’s quote of, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Christmas Cactus Care

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

One of the fun things about this time of year is the seasonal foliage that you might find in homes and businesses.  One of those is the Christmas cactus, which M.S.U. Extension has a fact sheet about that is free and available to the public.  You might be surprised to find out that Christmas cactus actually perform better and bloom longer in cooler areas of the house, with the plant liking an optimum temperature between 55 and 68°F.  This doesn’t mean though you should put the plant right by the front door.  They don’t like drafts.

The Christmas cactus is what is called a short-day, long-night plant.  For them to bloom they need at least 14 hours of uninterrupted darkness per day for about 6 weeks.  They most often bloom closer to Thanksgiving it seems in our area rather than Christmas due to diurnal cycles, which is a fancy way of saying any pattern that recurs every 24 hours as a result of one full rotation of the Earth with respect to the Sun.  Even though they need a certain amount of darkness to bloom, once they start they can be put in a bright location out of direct sunlight.  This will increase the amount of time they bloom.

As far as water needs go, they do not require a lot of water.  The soil should only be watered when it is dry to the touch.  When they are forming flower buds and are flowering they might need a bit more water to prolong bloom time.  The biggest thing is to never over-water. 

After they are done flowering, pruning the last one or two segments at or just above the node will encourage branching, and thus more flowers once it blooms again.  You can also fertilize the plant with a complete fertilizer once a month from spring until October.  Only fertilize during these times though and not while the plant is flowering.

As you continue to treat your Christmas cactus with love, watering and fertilizing as necessary, the plant can live for 20-30 years or more.  Enjoy it and the once a year blooms it sends out!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Pets Vs. Decorations

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

We are in that interim time between Thanksgiving and Christmas where life is hectic and everyone is in the process of beginning to decorate their home.  With the acquisition of two pets recently who are intermittently in the house I have begun to think about how to keep them and our Christmas decorations safe over the next month. 

First, let’s think about things like ribbons, wrapping paper, ornaments, tinsel, extension cords and gifts, which may be may be appealing "chew toys" but which may make your pet sick.  Eating tinsel or other string-like items such as ribbon can cause serious damage to the intestine.  One end can get stuck while the rest is pulled into the intestine as it contracts; the contractions may cause the ribbon or tinsel to saw through the intestine.  If not caught in time, infection of the belly cavity develops and the prognosis for recovery becomes poor.  Pets can quickly become ill with signs including vomiting, diarrhea, depression, belly pain and sometimes fever.  Foreign matter stuck in the intestine often does not show up on "x-ray" but sometimes the foreign matter will trap air in the intestine, which helps the veterinarian make a diagnosis.  Surgery is required to remove foreign matter that does not pass out on its own.

With the numerous lights around Christmas, pay attention to the fact that these lights are another attraction for pets to chew on.  Both indoor and outdoor lights should be carefully examined to ensure safety for your household pets.  Electrical shock may occur from defective cords as well as from pets chewing on cords.  Check cords for any signs of bite marks, loose or frayed wires, proximity to the tree's water supply or evidence of short circuits.  Use grounded "3-prong" extension cords and strictly follow manufacturer's guidelines for light usage.  It may be difficult to curb your pet's fascination with all those pretty decorations.  Child gates can be used across doorways to keep your pet away from the Christmas tree and decorations at times they can’t be watched.  Consider the strategic use of furniture as well.  I’m sure all of us would like to enjoy the Christmas seasonal decorations and keep our pets safe.

Lastly, think about chocolate.  Chocolate can be toxic or even fatal to dogs and cats.  Chocolate poisoning occurs most frequently in dogs but other species are also susceptible. Theobromine is the toxic compound found in chocolate.  The toxicity of chocolate depends on the amount and type of chocolate ingested, with the toxic dose for a 44-pound dog being 3 oz. for unsweetened cocoa, 5 oz. for baking chocolate, 7 oz. for semisweet chocolate, and 20 oz. for milk chocolate.

On a lighter note, for inventive ways to keep your pets safe and still celebrate the holidays visit: 6 cat proof Christmas trees to try out during the holidays

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Cow's Body Condition Score will impact calf health and pregnancy rates next year

Earlier than normal snowfall this year may necessitate feeding cows
earlier than normal.  Body condition score at calving impacts calf
vigor and health and cow breed back next year.  Photo by Kari Lewis.
Kari Lewis, MSU Extension – Glacier County

                Recently as I looked through our cows, I was concerned about some of the cows’ body condition scores.  There’s multiple factors that have had a role in our herd’s body condition being lower than I would like to see.  First, this summer’s drought resulted in less forage than normal, then the early October snowstorm hit the cows hard as well.  In addition, our weaning date was later than it should have been, which meant the cows were also lactating longer into the fall, using additional nutrients to support their calf at side.  Not surprisingly, it is our youngest cows who are the thinnest, as they’ve also been trying to grow in addition to supporting their calf and developing fetus. 
                As cows receive nutrition, they first use it for maintenance, then allocate the remaining nutrients to support fetal development, lactation, growth, and lastly, rebreeding.  Thus, if a cow is short on nutrition, the first thing to be impacted is her ability to rebreed.  Therefore, it’s critical that we provide adequate nutrition now to ensure cows are in an acceptable body condition to rebreed next summer. 
A body condition score (BCS) describes the relative fatness or body condition of a cow on a scale of 1 to 9.  A score of 1 means the cow is extremely thin, and a score of 9 indicates a very obese cow.  Each body condition score translates to approximately 70 pounds, so to increase a BCS 4 cow (on December 1) to a BCS 6 cow (by March 1) would require that cow to gain 1.6 pounds per day, not including the increasing weight of her fetus. 
                Why is body condition so critical?  Simply, thin cows take longer to rebreed, produce less colostrum, and give birth to less vigorous calves.  Those calves that are born weak at birth take longer to nurse, have lower immunoglobin levels which lessens their ability to overcome disease, and are ultimately less likely to survive. 
A cow’s BCS at calving is a large indicator of how soon she will rebreed following calving.  A cow that calves in a BCS 5 or 6 averages 55 days following calving until her first heat, while cows that calve in a BCS 3 or 4 average an 80-day post-partum interval.  Knowing that we want those cows to have one or two heat cycles prior to when they are bred, it’s easy to see why thin cows fall out of the herd.  Data from Spitzer et al., 1995 showed that first calf heifers that calved in a BCS 4 had a 56% pregnancy rate after a 60-day breeding season, whereas those heifers that were in a BCS 5 at calving had an 80% pregnancy rate, and there was a 96% pregnancy rate in the heifers that calved at a BCS 6. 
                The period after weaning (when nutrient requirements are decreased) and before the third trimester begins (when nutrient requirements increase again) is the most economical time to add body condition.  By providing adequate nutrition, a windbreak, straw during cold weather, and access to clean, fresh water, we can add condition to the cowherd to meet our breed back goals for next year.  

Here at the MSU Extension office in Glacier county, we can assist you in formulating a ration for your cowherd.  We have two hay probes that can be checked out to sample your hay for a nutrient analysis, and can use ration balancing software to formulate a ration that will meet your cows’ protein and energy needs.  Please call (406) – 873-2239 or e-mail kari.lewis@montana.edu with questions, I’m happy to help!              

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Your Turkey is Cooked!

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

Thanksgiving is now just a couple of days away, which I’m sure if your home is like mine, has been on everyone’s minds for the past several weeks.  Thoughts of company, upcoming holidays, and food seem to constantly swirl around in conversations.  There are numerous ways out there for people to prepare their main course of turkey for Thanksgiving, from basting, brining and marinating to using roaster ovens, grills, smokers, deep fat fryers, pressure cookers and microwaves.  This week, as our time is short, I wanted to focus on how to cook a turkey the day before serving it.  Perhaps this is considered heresy to some people as the smell, atmosphere and stress of preparing turkey surround the events of the day but you might be looking for another way. 

The following directions from the University of Nebraska, I emphasize again, apply to roasting your turkey one day before your meal.  You’ll want to wait about 20 minutes after removing turkey from the oven to allow the juices to distribute.  Be sure to follow safe procedures for thawing and roasting your turkey before you proceed to this first step.  For more information, go to the USDA Let's Talk Turkey site.
Slice the breast meat but the legs and wings can be left whole.  Place your turkey in shallow containers, limiting the depth to less than 2 inches.  Metal containers cool faster than glass-type pans.  Also, refrigerate any broth saved for making gravy in shallow containers.  Refrigerate the turkey, loosely covered.  You can place loosely covered foods in the refrigerator while still warm.  However, cover tightly when food is completely cooled.

When serving your turkey the next day, the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline advises that cooked turkey may be eaten cold or reheated.  Of course, you’re going to want to reheat your turkey so I would suggest following these recommendations given by the USDA:
In the oven set the temperature no lower than 325° F.  Reheat the turkey to an internal temperature of 165° F.  Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature.  My main concern with reheating is keeping the turkey meat moist.  What is suggested to keep the turkey moist is to add a little broth or water and cover it.  If you are using a microwave, cover your food and rotate it for even heating.  Once again, check the internal temperature of your turkey with a food thermometer to make sure it reaches 165° F.  After that, it’s time to sit back and enjoy your Thanksgiving meal and holiday!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Spotlight on SNAP-ED with Jodi Duncan

There are so many facets to MSU Extension and today I would like to highlight our Nutrition SNAP-ED program.  This is the Montana State University Extension Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education, which supports low income Montanans in making the healthy choice the easy choice when it comes to nutrition and physical activity.  We know that 77% of Montana adults do not participate in enough physical activity to meet guidelines, that 74% of Montana adults eat less than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, and 29% of Montana children ages 10 to 17 are overweight or obese.  To combat these challenges, SNAP-ED teaches low income youth and adults how to eat, live, learn, work, play, and shop within their communities to make healthier choices. 

Locally, Jodi Duncan is the SNAP-Ed instructor based out of our Glacier county office, with primary responsibilities of serving the Blackfeet Reservation in addition to the Cut Bank and Shelby communities as time permits.  She started this position in September, and has certainly hit the ground running!  In October alone, Jodi taught a total of 30 different classes, which reached 460 individuals!  Jodi has been teaching 1st, 3rd, and 5th graders at the Babb Elementary School, and 9 different classes of 1st graders at the Vina Chattin Elementary School in Browning.  She has also begun teaching classes here in the Cut Bank schools, and has been working on scheduling classes with the Shelby Elementary School as well. 

Each lesson that Jodi teaches focuses on both nutrition and physical activity.  Students are given the opportunity to sample a healthy food during each class which has exposed many students to fruits and vegetables that they may not normally try.  Some examples of the samplings that students tried last month included whole grain trail mix, vegetable soup, yogurt parfait, and a peanut butter yogurt dip with apples. 
Statewide, the MSU Extension Nutrition Education team reached 8,152 Montanans with direct education efforts in this last grant year.  There were 920 adults that participated in the Eating Smart, Being Active series and 7,103 youth that participated in the Youth Understanding MyPlate series in the 1st, 3rd, and 5th grades across Montana. 
Thank you to the schools that have partnered with the MSU Extension SNAP-Ed program.  It’s exciting to hear the stories of 1st graders that want a second helping of vegetable soup, or the kids that see Jodi in the grocery store or tell her that they had their parents pick up a fruit they tried in class!  The SNAP-ED program is just one more way that MSU Extension is making an impact in

Kari Lewis, MSU Extension - Glacier County

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Trick or Treating Safely!

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

The Liberty County Courthouse Employees are all about Halloween!

For children, there don’t seem to be many holidays that exhibit, apart from Christmas, the joy and anticipation of Halloween.  I remember those feelings as well and how exciting it was to dress up and get candy to your heart’s content.  Those days of dressing up as a sailor, Indiana Jones, an elephant, or whatever else I may have fancied may be over (see above for Liberty County Courthouse fun), but the fun lives on through my children.  As that night is tonight, I wanted to pass along a few tips that Extension has about making sure that everyone, parents and youth alike, have a fun and safe Halloween.

First regarding costumes, fabric can easily catch fire if it brushes too close to a candle-lit jack-o'-lantern, so choose flame-resistant costume materials.  Add pieces of reflective tape to make a costume more visible at night, especially if it is dark colors.  If a costume requires a mask or other face covering, you should be able to see clearly and breathe easily.  For increased visibility and safety, consider using face paint or makeup instead of a mask.  Be more visible by carrying candy in a white or brightly-colored bag.  Alternatively, put reflective tape on the bag.

For those that don’t go out with the children, but are at home waiting for youth to stop by, consider using small battery-powered lights inside jack-o'-lanterns instead of candles to reduce the chances of decorations catching fire.  To create a spooky atmosphere, use colored light bulbs or theatrical gels to change the color of your porch light.  Don’t use plastic wrap because it could melt or cause a fire.  If you use cloth, don’t drape it over the bulb, and make sure that it is not touching the bulb at all.  If you do put candles in pumpkins or paper bags, set them back from the walkway, so long costumes will not fall into the flames.  Don’t light candles in cluttered areas, on unsteady furniture, or near curtains and drapes.

If you are answering the door and giving out treats, offer non-candy substitutes such as prepackaged fruit snacks, pretzels, or sealed boxes of raisins.  Treats do not have to be edible—items such as pencils, stickers, or small toys add variety to a trick-or-treater's haul.

For the youth, trick-or-treating alone isn’t safe.  Always go with a group of friends or an adult you trust.  Never go into a house unless your parents are with you.  Avoid darkened houses; only visiting those with a front porch light turned on.  Stay on sidewalks and driveways to avoid damaging plants or tripping over lawn obstacles.  Carry a flashlight, so you can see where you are walking and so others can see you.  Walk on the sidewalk wherever possible, but in areas where there isn’t a sidewalk, walk facing the traffic.
The last bit of advice is to have fun, both as parents and children.  These are memories that everyone is creating for a lifetime!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Oh, what can change in a 4-H year!

Kari Lewis
MSU Extension - Glacier County

4-H enrollment is underway, and today, I want to encourage anyone who has been considering joining to stop by your local MSU Extension office for details! 

After participating in archery for the first time
at 4-H camp this summer, Destini added it to her
4-H projects.  4-H archery practice sign ups are
underway, with practice beginning November 2.
Photo by Kari Lewis.
Yesterday, I had a visit from a 10-year-old 4-H member that made me think about just how much she has grown throughout her first year in 4-H.  She moved to the Cut Bank area a little over a year ago, and joined 4-H after a friend urged her to do so.  Neither parent had been involved in 4-H previously, but being new to the community they thought 4-H would be a great way to become involved.  Her first year, she successfully raised a pig and exhibited in cake decorating at the fair. 

This year, she added a sewing project that she can work on with her Grandmother.  She added a baking project, and scrapbooking which will fit well with her role as her club’s reporter and historian.  She had also attended 4-H camp this past summer where she shot archery for the first time, which led her to add that project.  Because she will be taking Hunter’s Safety this spring and her family wants her to learn how to safely use a firearm, she added Air Rifle to her list of projects.  I smiled this morning as I thought about a family that went from no previous 4-H experience and really wondering what they were getting into, to having a daughter enrolled in livestock, cooking, sewing, scrapbooking, and shooting sports projects, who is serving as a club officer, and is also gaining leadership experience by helping with the Cloverbud program. Oh, what can change in just a year of 4-H!

After successfully raising a pig and completing
a cake decorating project in her first year,
Destini has added numerous other projects
to her 4-H list for the coming year. 
Photo by Kari Lewis.
In Glacier county, we have three 4-H clubs that would love to have your son or daughter join them.  Our clubs meet once a month to conduct business, do community service projects, and work together on their various projects. In November, our shooting sports practices begin.  Each week, from November through February 4-Hers will be improving their marksmanship skills, learning self-discipline, safety, and personal responsibility through archery or air rifle practice.  We do have club equipment available for members to use through generous donations.   

Last week, one of the middle school teachers had called and asked if I would come share about 4-H with the 6th graders.  She commented on how as a teacher she can pick out the 4-Hers as they have developed responsibility, public speaking, and problem-solving skills through 4-H, and she hopes more students can take advantage of those opportunities.  If you are interested in joining 4-H, where we ‘Learn by Doing’ ‘To Make the Best Better,’ please stop by or call your local Extension Office. 

As a side note, our office will be closed next Monday through Thursday as I will be in Bozeman for our MSU Extension Annual Conference, but you can always call or e-mail at kari.lewis@montana.edu if needed.  

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Which Pumpkin Do I Pick?

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

This time of year pumpkins begin to pop up everywhere and my mind has turned to how to choose the best pumpkin.  But, you may ask, “for what?”  That all depends on whether you are looking for that perfect jack-o’-lantern or that delicious homemade pumpkin pie.
Pumpkins are native to North America and were used by Native Americans before the arrival of Columbus pretty much the same way they are used today — as both decoration and food.  Different pumpkin species and varieties may be used in different ways, but knowing which is best for your specific purpose will give you the most successful outcome.

For most families, purchasing a pumpkin this time of year means pumpkin carving.  Jack-o’-lantern pumpkin varieties possess a uniform color and shape that makes for easy carving.  They have relatively little interior flesh (thin-walled) and a flat bottom so they can sit upright.  While jack-o’-lanterns are excellent for carving, they may not be the best option for cooking.
If you are interested in making your pumpkin pie starting with the pumpkin itself, choose one bred for best taste and texture for cooking.  These might be referred to as “pie pumpkins” or “sugar pumpkins.”  Pie pumpkins look similar to jack-o’-lantern types, and indeed are the same species, but they are a variety selected for traits suitable for cooking.  They tend to be smaller, darker orange and denser (heavier for their size), with a sweeter, less stringy flesh than a larger jack-o’-lantern type.

Another group of pumpkins to consider for fall cooking are blue-green pumpkins, with deep sutures and a somewhat bumpy texture.  These include the so-called fairytale pumpkins, which look as if the wave of a magic wand will turn them into a carriage.  The Fairytale pumpkins are very attractive pumpkins for display, with deep ribs and unique coloration, in shades of beige and green.
Pure pumpkin, whether canned or homemade, is an excellent source of fiber, vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene, an important antioxidant), vitamin C and potassium.  Eating foods rich in beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain cancers and helps protect against heart disease.  Antioxidants also protect the body against the degenerative effects of aging.

So the question remains, is it worth the extra trouble to make your own pumpkin puree rather than buy in the can?  Many people would say the freshness and taste is worth it.  Canned pumpkin has all the health benefits of homemade puree, however.  If buying canned pumpkin, make sure you are getting the pure pumpkin. “Pumpkin pie filling,” also available in a can similar to pure pumpkin, has higher salt and caloric content than pure pumpkin.
One thing you get when you make your own pumpkin puree (or carve a jack-o’-lantern) is seeds!  Cleaned and roasted in the oven, pumpkin seeds are a delicious and healthful snack or crunchy addition to a salad or soup.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

"Is it too late to plant winter wheat?"

Kari Lewis
With the moisture that our area received last week, planting winter wheat is looking like more of a possibility for some producers.  The recommendation for winter wheat is to plant early enough in the fall to allow four to six weeks of growth prior to dormancy.  This four to six-week period provides enough time for the winter wheat to become rooted, established, and produce tillers.  If winter wheat is planted too late, the crop will be more susceptible to winter kill as there will be less tillers and a shallower root system.  One advantage to later seeding winter wheat is that the potential is decreased for infestation by diseases dependent on a ‘green bridge’ such as Wheat Streak Mosaic Virus.
Late seeded winter wheat should have an increased seeding
rate to compensate for potentially reduced tillering and
increased susceptibility to winter kill.  Photo by Kari Lewis.

Typically, a planting rate of 40 to 60 lbs/acre of pure live seed is adequate to establish a crop of dryland winter wheat.  However, this seeding rate should be increased both in cases of later than normal seeding, such as this year, and in high residue no-till systems.  This increased seeding rate is to compensate for reduced tillering in these scenarios.

When considering which winter wheat variety to plant, be sure to take advantage of the variety trial data available from the Montana Agricultural Experiment Stations.  The local experiment stations test numerous winter wheat varieties (along with other crops). The varieties are evaluated by year and the data summarized over the past six years.  Varieties are evaluated for yield, test weight, height, heading date, protein %, winter survivability, and a solid stem score (which indicates the variety’s sawfly resistance). 

The Western Triangle Ag Research Center, which is located just east of the Valier exit on I-15, has cooperating farms where the varieties are evaluated.  These cooperating farms are north of Cut Bank on the Bradley farm, north of Devon at Brian Akelstad’s, east of Brady on Aaron Killion’s farm, and northeast of Choteau at the Inbody Farms.  The Northern Ag Research Center out of Havre cooperates on winter wheat trials with the McKeever Farms in Chouteau County and Cederberg Farm in Blaine County. 

In addition to the extensive data that the research centers provide, there is a Montana Agricultural Experiment Station Wheat Variety Release Committee that summarizes the data and provides recommendations for each region in Montana.  The committee is composed of 16 members including a wheat breeder, a plant pathologist, a cereal forage quality scientist, an entomologist, a weed scientist, a cropping systems specialist, six Research Center agronomists, one manager from the Montana Foundation Seed program and the Montana Seed Growers Association, one Montana Wheat and Barley Committee member, and one representative of the Montana Ag Experiment Station Advisory Board, who work together to make variety recommendations for specific regions.

For winter wheat or other crop variety data, check out the website, www.plantsciences.montana.edu/crops.  The Southern Ag Research Center has a very user-friendly variety selection tool available as well on their website, http://www.sarc.montana.edu/php/varieties/.  The Montana Wheat Production Guide, available at http://store.msuextension.org/publications/AgandNaturalResources/EB0197.pdf, details seeding rates as well.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Shelterbelt workshop October 12th

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

Several months ago, I was asked to provide a shelterbelt workshop again here in Liberty County.  As it has been a couple of years, I felt that it was a reasonable request so I approached Peter Kolb, the Extension forestry specialist about coming up Chester.  He graciously accepted my invitation and will be here in Chester on Thursday, October 12th.

Do you know what steps you need to take when you look out at your shelterbelt and see trees and shrubs that are declining?  Many of our shelterbelts were planted decades ago and are in various stages of decline.  There are many decisions that need to be made if we want to continue to utilize shelterbelts for our landscape and farming practices.  Do you renovate, tear an existing row out, start from scratch or explore other options?  Is it better to go from multiple rows to a single row?  What recommendations are out there about suitable trees and shrubs?  If you are wondering how, when or what trees to plant for your yard, a windbreak or shelterbelt, or have older trees that need care or renovation you might want to attend the upcoming workshop.  Growing trees in central Montana is extremely challenging and Dr. Peter Kolb, M.S.U. Extension Forestry Specialist, will be presenting a two-hour session on tree care and shelterbelt planning and renovation in Chester.  The program will be held on Thursday, October 12th, at 9:00 a.m. at St. Mary’s Youth Center, located at 11 West Quincy Avenue in Chester.  If you have examples or experience, please bring those as well to share.  

The workshop will be presented in two sessions as follows: Hour one will explore how to care for your trees.  This 1-hour session will provide basic tree physiology information as well as practical information on selecting and planting trees.  Understanding the basics of how a tree functions and what it needs with regards to light, water and nutrients to grow and stay healthy will help anyone who has ever had trees to take care of.

The second hour will be outdoors at the Hendrickson Farm, approximately six miles south of Tiber elevator where the group can address the basics of pruning trees to keep them healthy, designing a shelterbelt and technics to renovate older ones.  Determining optimal spacing for varied species and assessing whether pruning or replanting is needed is the first step.  Additional steps focus on good options for shelterbelts and will also be discussed.  The program is free and open to the public.  RSVPs are appreciated but not mandatory.  For more information, please contact the Liberty County Extension office at 759-5625.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Don, Carolyn, and Cody Popelka honored as Glacier County 4-H Volunteers of the Year

Kari Lewis, MSU Extension - Glacier County

    Annually, the Glacier County 4-H Council chooses an individual or group to honor for their contributions to 4-H.  This year, Don, Carolyn, and Cody Popelka were honored as the Volunteers of the Year, in recognition of their outstanding commitment to 4-H and the Glacier county archery program. 
While many 4-H volunteers grow up in the program, the Popelka family has had a relatively new introduction to 4-H.  It was another 4-Her, Brenda Aspevig, who invited Levi and Cody Popelka, to first join 4-H, a decision which Don and Carolyn supported.  “We were new to the community, and 4-H was a great way to meet people and get us involved,” Don said.  That invitation from Brenda the Popelka boys to join 4-H eventually led to Brenda’s marriage to Levi Popelka, and Don and Carolyn’s introduction to 4-H!
Don Popelka awards Brad Hjartarson his trophy from the
Marias Fair archery tournament.  Don, Carolyn, and Cody
Popelka were recently honored as the Glacier County 4-H
Volunteers of the Year for their service to the
shooting sports program.  Photo by Val Tuma.
It was Jim Elings who first got Cody involved in the 4-H archery program, and from there, Don and Carolyn attended a 4-H training to become certified archery instructors.  Surprisingly, Don and Carolyn were not even archers prior to their 4-H involvement, but through the program have developed a love of the sport.  “It’s fun, and challenging, plus the weather is nicer during archery season!” Don noted.  Since becoming involved in the 4-H archery program, both Don and Carolyn have purchased their own bows as they and Cody hunt for elk, deer, and turkey.
                While the Popelkas admittedly have a newfound passion for archery, it was the tremendous benefit that 4-H had on their son Cody that spurred them to become volunteers.  “When you can take a quiet, clingy kid and bring him out through a great project, I hate to see that die.  We decided to step up and become involved,” Carolyn said of why they choose to remain involved with 4-H after Cody graduated in 2014. 
The quiet, clingy kid that Carolyn refereed to is now a senior at Montana State University in the Mechanical Engineering program and Navy.  Cody will enter the United States Navy’s Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidacy program upon graduation, which will allow him to work aboard a nuclear-powered submarine.  Carolyn attributed Cody’s present success to his tremendous growth in the 4-H program.  She noted that as a high school freshman he literally hung on her arm at his first 4-H club meeting, but through the course of the year he really came out of his shell. 
“To see a kid go from not saying two words to being able get up in front of people and do public speaking and do project interviews, that’s a big change,” she said.  Don echoed Carolyn’s sentiments of 4-H’s impact on Cody, saying that following Cody’s high school graduation, his summer employer told him that Cody’s interview was the best they’d had in terms of professionalism, being well spoken, and making eye contact.  Those interview skilled were honed through 4-H, and are a skill that Don and Carolyn work especially hard with their archery club members on in preparation for their Marias Fair interviews.
Don sees the benefit of the archery project both for himself and for the kids.  “It’s not just about archery, they are learning a skill, they are learning to follow instructions, help others, and get along with others,” Don said. 
Even as adults, Don and Carolyn note that they are also learning through the program.  “To get up in front of a group of kids every week, it helps with my own public speaking,” Don said, “Those young kids really keep you honest and catch it if you make a mistake.  It shows they’re paying attention,” he said.
Each week, from November until March, Don and Carolyn coach the weekly archery practices.  Annually, the Popelkas plan a Christmas party for their archery group and a 3-D shoot at their home where members spend the afternoon practicing their archery skills on 3-D targets.   Cody assists with practices and tournaments as he’s able, noting that, “4-H has given me the opportunity to practice my leadership skills, which have helped me in college and hopefully in the future as well,” Cody said. 
For Carolyn, she says coaching has taught her patience and understanding, and that coaching with her husband has worked really well.  “We’ve always worked together, and we can tell each other freely what needs to be done, it’s great.  He’s more into the mechanical part of archery, and I’m more into watching the kids and keeping them out of trouble,” Carolyn explained of their team effort.
The duo’s weekly commitment of leading archery practice, “Gets us out of the house and up and moving, gets us involved, and it’s fun for us,” Don said.  Both agree that the highlight is seeing the kids’ excitement each week and their growth through the program.  
“I’ve seen a couple kids like Cody grow through the program.  Grace Rooney, she was pretty quiet to start, and is now outgoing and almost a teacher.  Dayne and Hadley Barbie, it’s neat to see them stepping into a leadership role,” Carolyn said, explaining how the older members quickly take on a leadership role with the younger members. 
Don noted that seeing the kids’ improvement is what he most enjoys.  “We encourage them to set goals, and when they meet those, they are pretty excited,” Don said.  Don noted last year Wyatt Berkram set a goal to shoot six 10 X’s, and then shot seven 10 X’s in his first practice.  “We encouraged him to set a higher goal, and then strive for that.  It’s really neat to see the improvement, that’s what is most important,” he noted.

Another highlight for Don and Carolyn was when Cody qualified in his second year of 4-H to compete at the National Shooting Sports tournament in Grand Island, Nebraska.  Carolyn commented on the tremendous support that Cody received for his trip to Nationals.  “I opened the mailbox one day, and there was checks in there from people wanting to support Cody.  We had never even asked for it.  Cody would sell vegetables at the Farmer’s Market and say it was funding his 4-H trip, and he would be wiped out of vegetables every time.  People really wanted to support him,” Carolyn said in admiration of the support for the local 4-H program.
Being involved in the 4-H program has opened Carolyn’s eyes to all that 4-H offers.  “Growing up, I thought you needed a cow or pig to be in 4-H,” Carolyn said.  “Now I look back and see that I could have cooked or sewn; it’s neat to see all the programs 4-H does have.  It’s a good program, I would like to see more kids be involved.  Every kid I’ve seen in 4-H, they’re good kids.  They go on to do good stuff, and they’re hard workers,” Carolyn said. 
It is only because of volunteers like Don, Carolyn, and Cody Popelka, that 4-Hers have the opportunity to develop the skills that allow them to go on to do extraordinary work.  This opportunity is noticed by 4-H families, including the Steven and Bess Hjartarson family.  “Jacob and Brad are so impressed with Don and Carolyn’s knowledge and willingness to help with anything, from skills to finding the right equipment.  I appreciate their dedication to our kids.  Their boys have grown up and moved on (although Cody still helps a lot too!) and they still give so much to our kids and the program, we appreciate it so much.”  

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Do You Care about Your Community?

For those who care about their communities in North Central Montana, we have two FREE classes in Choteau.  All you have to do, is call/contact us to register, so we have enough supplies.  You can register via email teton@montana.edu, phone 406-466-2492, or text 406-590-2492.  More information below ...

Tuesday, October 3, 9-4 with a break for lunch on your own.

Wednesday, October 4, 6-9 p.m.

The New 4-H Year is Nearly Upon Us!

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

We are rapidly approaching a time of year that is full of surprise and mystery.  I am not talking about the impending holiday crush as we may soon see, but the beginning of a brand new 4-H year.  Many of you already may know that 4-H is one of the nation’s largest youth development programs, reaching more than 6 million youth.  Perhaps you or someone you know had experiences in 4-H.  I hope that those memories are positive and that you see 4-H for the treasure and benefit it is to our youth and our communities.  The new 4-H year begins on October 1st of each year and runs through September 30th. 

The 4-H program is run in conjunction with Montana State University Extension and is one of the chief responsibilities of Extension.  In Montana it is estimated that 1 out of 8 school age youth are 4-H’ers, making it the largest out-of-school program reaching approximately 20,000 youth annually.

So, what is so special about 4-H?  I personally was not involved in 4-H as a youth but in my time as Extension agent here in Liberty County I have come to appreciate the many things that 4-H teaches our youth.  4-H focuses on several things, including science, engineering and technology, healthy living and leadership through more than 50 different self selected projects.  These projects range from the traditional sewing, cooking and large animal projects to more recent additions such as junk-drawer robotics as well as hiking, sport fishing, photography, art and woodworking.  One of the best things about 4-H is that there is something for everyone!

4-H isn’t just for our youth.  The 4-H program is always in need of adult volunteers that want to give back to their community and share their talents.  Whether you were in 4-H as a youth, or not, the 4-H program always welcomes those adults who want to share their talents and help make the best better.  The experiences that you have hold can make an impact in our youths’ lives.  Now’s your chance to share your knowledge and talents with our young people, our future leaders. 

If you or your children are interested in getting involved in 4-H or would like to learn more I would encourage you to contact your local county Extension office or get online at montana4h.org to learn more.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Stresses in Agriculture

Harvest, moving cows, and weather changes are just a few causes of stress in folks working in agriculture. Whether it is a miscommunication or things just aren’t going your way, there is bound to be a few stressful situations in when you are working with livestock and Mother Nature. Today, I am leading a workshop with the Toole County Natural Resource and Conservation Services about stresses for women in agriculture and how to manage the day to day stresses of ag life. I can’t profess to be a therapist or a doctor but I can give you a few extension recommended tips and tricks to dealing with stress on the farm or ranch.
First, it is important to be aware that stress happens to everyone. Stress is your body’s reaction to the demands of life. Stress can be positive or negative too. Getting married, having a birthday party, or just loading the kids up to go to town can be stressful, but not bad. Things like, losing a loved one, divorce, or a drought are the bad stresses that you would like to do without. Stress is different for every person and each person deals with stress differently.

Second, now that you know what stresses you out, you need to identify your symptoms of stress. Do you get stomach aches, do you experience muscle tension, and do you grind your teeth at night? Are you feeling depressed, anxious, or overwhelmed? Some symptoms are more serious than others and require medical assistance, but it is important to understand these symptoms to be aware of them before they get any worse!
Now that you know what stresses you out and what your symptoms are I can give recommendations on how to relieve your stress.  MSU Extension has a MontGuide called 50 Stress-Busting Ideas for Your Well-Being. I won’t list all the ideas today because then my extension minute would turn into an extension hour! But there are some helpful tips such as exercising, journaling, traveling, visiting with friends, and just being mindful of your well-being and your mental health. I’ll post links to the entire list on our Toole County Extension Facebook page.
These are just a few ideas for stress busting and I know jobs in agriculture can be very stressful at times. Please remember, that I am not a doctor, but I care about our farmers and ranchers and their well-being and mental health, please visit with an actual doctor if your stress symptoms are too overwhelming.

Kim Suta Woodring
Toole County Extension

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Streamlining School Morning Breakfasts
Kari Lewis, MSU Extension - Glacier County

Last week we discussed lunch options for school kids (there's some great ideas available at https://store.extension.iastate.edu/Product/PM3026), so today will focus on some ideas to streamline breakfasts for your kids.  We always hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and the data supports that statement, especially for kids whose brains are developing and who need to concentrate throughout the school day.  Research shows that kids who eat breakfast score higher on math, reading, and standardized test scores and have longer attention spans.  In addition, kids who eat breakfast are less likely to be absent or tardy, are more likely to behave better in school, consume more important nutrients and are less prone to being overweight.  Breakfast eating kids make fewer visits to the school nurse, and are not as irritable, tired, or fidgety as kids who don’t eat breakfast.   

While most agree that breakfast is important, it can still be a challenge to ensure that kids receive a healthy breakfast and make it to school on time.  A nutritious breakfast combines a protein-rich food such as milk, yogurt, cheese, or peanut butter, a complex carbohydrate, such as a whole grain cereal, bread, or muffin, and a serving of vitamin C such as an orange, grapefruit, or strawberries. 

For Grab and Go breakfasts, keep at least two nutritious items on hand that are easy for kids to grab. These should be stored in highly visible, convenient spots where even young kids can reach them.  Some options for grab and go breakfasts include frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cereal and yogurt or milk, fresh fruit, trail mix (without the candy), or cheese sticks.  If cereal and unbreakable bowls are stored in a low cabinet, and milk is kept on a low shelf, kids can serve themselves breakfast, potentially helping ease some of the morning rush.

Homemade breakfast burritos can easily be made in a large batch,
frozen in individual ziploc bags, and reheated for a
quick breakfast.  Photo by Kari Lewis.
Personally, I’ve found that making a large batch of breakfast burritos and then freezing them in individual Ziploc bags works great to have a breakfast on hand for my husband who leaves the house far earlier than I do!  I also like to make muffins and quick breads, and can easily substitute in whole wheat flour to add more fiber to the recipe, can use applesauce instead of oil for less fat in the recipe, and often reduce the sugar as well, to make for a healthier breakfast item.  After baking, I typically slice the quick breads and individually wrap slices, and place them in a Ziploc freezer bag which makes for a quick breakfast item. 
Slow cooker oatmeal is an easy breakfast that can be
prepared the night before.  Photo by Kari Lewis.

Some other tips to help make breakfast time run smoothly include:
 - Get clothes, backpacks, and school items ready the night before so that breakfast isn’t rushed.
- Allow time for breakfast, you can even set out the plates and glasses the night before to make it easier.
·         Sit down together at the table, and turn off the TV or radio, unless you’re listening to the KSEN School Lunch Menu together!
·Plan a weeks’ breakfast menu at one time, it will be easier to stick to it if there’s a plan.

There are numerous ideas available for quick, nutritious breakfasts for your family, and your child will benefit both in the classroom and in life from having a breakfast routine.