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.  

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Long and the Short of Your Lawn Height During the Winter

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

This summer my oldest son took over mowing the lawn at home.  This was a welcome relief as my summers can get quite hectic and sometimes it goes long periods of time before I find the time to mow it myself.  It also allowed me to tackle other things around the yard that I don’t often get to.  However, it’s now getting close to time to putting our yard to bed for the winter.

That lends itself to the question, should a person mow their grass shorter before winter?  The answer is, it depends.  Let me elaborate and we’ll see if I can clear things up a bit.  So, right off, you should be mowing your grass during the growing season at two to two and a half inches.  That allows the grass to produce enough leaf surface for survival.  For winter though and how tall to leave the grass we need to consider how much snow we get and how long it sticks around.  As this often differs winter to winter, I don’t know if we can give a concrete answer.  However, what is known is that snow mold, which is a fungal disease of turfgrass in Montana, is prevalent in areas that have a lot of snow and where it sticks around for a long time.  Snow molds can be gray or pink and they love cool, wet environments.  Ultimately, snow molds cause poor green-up in the spring and areas that look matted down, often with a growth of mold.  The area can enlarge in the spring if the temperatures remain cool and there is timely rainfall.  Once it does warm up in the spring, the mold goes away, and the grass quite often recovers. 
If the grass is cut tall before winter, it creates an even better environment for the fungus to grow.  So, if you hedge your bets and count on more snow cover this winter, with it lasting more than 60 days, mow the grass short, approximately an inch to an inch and a half high.  However, if you figure on an open winter with not much snow cover, keep the grass tall, at approximately three inches.  That way, the grass will insulate the crown of the grass roots and keep them from getting too much frost winterkill over the winter months. 

If you have further questions regarding fall lawn care I would encourage you to contact your local county Extension office.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Keeping Our 8-Legged Friends Outside for the Winter

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

Over the last week or so we have started to see some cooler night temperatures, which to me have certainly been refreshing, especially compared to the warm, summer days we are still experiencing.  Our six and eight legged friends though probably haven’t been enjoying the drop in temperatures as much and you may have noticed have begun to move into your homes.  I have noticed in my own home an increase in the number of flies and spiders that have sought refuge inside.  In my home they usually get the heave-ho back outside, or they meet with an untimely demise. 

So, what can be done with spiders to keep them out of the home?  First off, most spiders are harmless and are in fact beneficial because they prey upon flies, crickets and other insects.  They generally won’t attempt to bite humans unless held or accidentally trapped.  Moreover, the majority of spiders have fangs too small or weak to puncture human skin. 

Routine, thorough house cleaning is the best way to eliminate spiders and discourage their return.  A vacuum cleaner or broom effectively removes spiders, webs, and egg sacs.  Spiders also prefer quiet, undisturbed areas such as closets, garages, basements, and attics.  Reducing clutter in these areas makes them less attractive to spiders.

Large numbers of spiders often congregate outdoors around the perimeter of structures.  Migration indoors can be reduced by moving firewood, building materials, and debris away from the foundation or entryways.  Shrubs, vines and tree limbs should be clipped back from the side of any buildings.
You can install tight-fitting window screens and door sweeps to exclude spiders and other insects.  Also, make sure to inspect and clean behind outdoor window shutters.  Consider installing yellow or sodium vapor light bulbs at outside entrances as well.  These lights are less attractive than incandescent bulbs to night-flying insects which, in turn, attract spiders.

To further reduce spider entry from outside, insecticides can be applied as "barrier treatments" around the base of the foundation.  Pay particular attention to door thresholds, garage and crawl space entrances, including foundation vents.  Carbaryl or any of the synthetic pyrethroids such as cypermethrin, cyfluthrin, or lambda-cyhalothrin are effective, but may need to be reapplied periodically throughout the summer.  Wettable powder or microencapsulated ("slow-release") formulations are most effective.

If you have further questions or concerns about how to keep spiders and insects out of your home, I would encourage you to visit with your local county Extension office.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

“What are lease rates this days?” 
Kari Lewis, MSU Extension - Glacier County

A question we often receive in Extension is, what are going lease rates?  In true Extension fashion, I often respond, ‘Well, it depends.’  While the National Ag Statistics Service does provide both county and statewide per acre lease rates that can serve as a starting point, it’s much more complicated than that.  It’s important that both parties’ costs are accounted for, versus simply charging what you think the neighbor is charging. 
                A “good’ lease outlines both parties’ responsibilities and the timing of those responsibilities.  A good lease includes information on the property and people involved, and clearly states the rates and how they are calculated, the length of the lease, the opportunity to renew the lease, and when lease payments are due.  Leases should always be written, with the terms agreed upon by both parties and input from your lawyer and/or accountant.  A written lease is especially valuable to future generations if either the landowner or tenant dies, or otherwise becomes debilitated.   
                A written lease helps clarify expectations, and ensures that both parties have clearly communicated their expectations.  For example, by definition, one animal unit is one 1,000 lb. cow with a calf at side that is less than 3 months of age.  However, to others, an animal unit may mean any cow/calf pair, with the cow potentially weighing upwards of 1,300 pounds.  A pasture lease can be written on a per acre basis, per head basis, or per AUM basis, and it may be simplest to write the lease based on a per acre basis and within the lease write how many livestock and of what type are allowed. 
                The lease should specify any services that the landowner will provide.  For example, will the landowner repair fences, maintain windbreaks, manage weeds, and maintain the water?  Will the livestock owner or landowner be responsible for checking and treating any sick livestock, paying for medicine, providing salt or mineral, etc.?  According to Jeff Mosley, MSU Extension Range specialist, research has shown that about 30 percent of the average private land pasture lease rate is for services provided by the landowner.  Therefore, if the landowner is not providing any services and is only collecting rent, the pasture lease rate should probably be about 70 percent of the average private land lease rate. 
                In the event that good quality water is not available, will the tenant need to haul water?  If there is drought, fire, or flood and forage quantity is inadequate, is there the option to modify or terminate the lease and lease rate?  Also, does the leasee have the ability to hunt, fish, cut firewood, or recreate on the land? 

                These are just some questions to begin the process of writing a lease.  Fortunately, there are some great tools available to help with the process.  www.msuextension.org/aglease is a great website that has links to lease rates by county for cropland and pasture, guides for grazing and beef cattle leases, and more.  Within the www.msuextension.org/aglease website, there is a link to www.AgLease101.org that also provides samples leases and templates for writing leases.  

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Homestead Declarations

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

 In historical context we commonly think of the word homestead, or homesteading, as referring to what our ancestors did in settling this continent.  For example, the Fulbrights homesteaded in Ingomar in 1915.  However, when looked at in a different context, homesteads, or homesteading, can refer to many of us.  Today, let’s talk about homestead declarations, which is one of our MontGuides that are free and available to the public.

By signing a homestead declaration, Montanans can protect up to $250,000 in value of a home against most creditors’ claims.  A homestead is the house or mobile home that a person lives in and land on which it sits.  The property must be a person’s primary residence for it to be eligible for a homestead declaration.  This may include a mobile or manufactured home where the owner doesn’t own the land.

The maximum value of exempt property for the homestead declaration, as I mentioned, is $250,000.  If the value of the property exceeds $250,000, creditors may request the district court to partition the land and sell part of it or all of it.  If the property is sold, the person who filed the declaration has protection for the first $250,000 of proceeds.  An example of how this works could be as follows:  Joe owns a house that has an assessed value of $80,000 with a $50,000 mortgage balance.  Joe’s homestead declaration protects only the $30,000 equity Joe has in the house.  In another example, Doug owns a house that has an assessed value of $275,000 with a mortgage balance of $10,000, thus leaving an equity of $265,000.  Once again, the owner is only protected up to $250,000 so the remaining $15,000 in equity is available to creditors.  Additionally, creditors could force the sale of the home to recover part or all of the debt they are owed. 

There are specific instances in which it is unjust, according to the Montana Legislature, to provide a homestead exemption.  First, if a judgment against a homeowner occurs before a homestead declaration is filed.  Also, a homestead declaration provides no protection against liens.  A homestead declaration further provides no protection for failure to pay the mortgage. 

For copies of the homestead declaration form you can google Montana homestead declarations, or an attorney can also help a person execute a homestead declaration.  The homestead declaration is then recorded at the Clerk and Recorder’s office.  If you have further questions about homestead declarations, I would encourage you to pick up a copy of the MontGuide about it at your local county Extension office or visit with your preferred legal professional.