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!