Monday, December 24, 2018

Tax credits now available through Glacier County 4-H endowment donations!

Public speaking is a skill
honed through 4-H events and
activities.  Photo by Kari Lewis.

Kari Lewis
As the year comes to a close and many of you are visiting with your accountant, I wanted to let you know about a new opportunity we have for 4-H supporters!  The Glacier County 4-H Council has recently established an endowment through the Montana 4-H Foundation.  The great news for 4-H supporters is that any donations to the endowment will be eligible for a tax credit.  A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of the actual income tax you owe to the state of Montana, versus a tax deduction that simply reduces your taxable income. 
While the tax credit is great news for our 4-H supporters, the great news for our 4-H members and leaders is that income from the fund will provide educational and/or leadership opportunities or awards to youth or adults involved in 4-H, at the discretion of the Glacier County 4-H Council.  The Glacier County 4-H Council supports 4-H youth development while helping youth “Make the Best Better.”

A few examples of how the Glacier County 4-H Council supported our 4-H youth this past year includes the following:
  •  Supporting youth led community service projects such as the Soup and Bread Luncheon which raised over $700 for the Parkview Senior Center
  • Helping provide transportation to 4-H camp, which 10 members and 4 counselors attended.  Camp provides a fun way for 4-Hers to develop friendships with other 4-Hers from across the Hiline while gaining independence away from home as well. 
  • Providing scholarships for youth to attend statewide leadership development events such as Rec Lab and Montana 4-H Congress
  • Providing awards for the county Communications Contest and Roundtable event which rewards members for their hard work and their ability to complete their projects while reaching their goals
  • Providing support for leader training and materials

In the past five years, 4-H enrollment in Glacier County has nearly doubled from 41 youth in 2013-14 to 81 youth this past year!  As 4-H continues to grow, we hope you will consider investing in our youth as we strive to instill lifelong skills of leadership, service, work ethic, communication, and responsibility in youth through the influence of caring adults.  Your support will have an impact for generations to come.

The Glacier County 4-H program has nearly doubled in the
past five years with enrollment at 81 members this past year.
Photo by Kari Lewis.

For more details on tax credits, please visit with your accountant and consult the free MSU Extension MontGuide, “Save Montana IncomeTaxes with a Charitable Gift Annuity” which is available on our website,  To take advantage of this tax credit and support Glacier County 4-H, please mail checks to the Montana 4-H Foundation (PO Box 173580, Bozeman, MT 59717) with Glacier County Endowment in the memo, and the Foundation will provide a receipt. 

For more information, please contact the Glacier County Extension Office at 406-873-2239 or  Thank you for your generous support!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

"What's hay worth?"

Kari Lewis
The question of, “What’s hay worth?” or “What should I charge for my hay?” is one question that we commonly receive in Extension.  My first question back is, “Well, what’s the quality?”  Hay quality varies significantly based on the type of hay, how it was managed, and how it has been stored, and is ONLY known through getting a hay sample tested through a lab.  Grass/alfalfa hay that is 14% crude protein is worth more than grass/alfalfa hay that is 10% protein.  Barley hay that is free of beards and has been tested free of nitrates is worth more than barley hay of unknown quality.  When folks say their hay is ‘Good quality’ what does that actually mean?  Without a forage analysis, we never know. 
Hay price should be based upon quality, management, and
storage.  Resources for Montana hay prices exist online as
well.  Photo by Kari Lewis.

Producers selling hay need to know their cost of production.  That is, what was the cost or rent of the hay ground, tractor, rake, and baler, in addition to the fuel, fertilizer, twine, labor, irrigation, and hauling costs?  If it cost $10,000 to produce 100 tons of hay this year, the cost of production was $100/ton.  Therefore, the producer would need to price the hay at greater than $100/ton in order to make a profit.

Other resources that can be used for setting a hay price include looking at other hay prices in the area.  The Montana Hay Hotline, an online resource available through the Montana Department of Agriculture, is a free listing service for hay sellers and buyers.  Searching for similar hay types provides an idea of hay prices in the area.  However, it’s important to remember that location and quality of the hay will be large factors as to price, so look for hay of similar quality to yours in your local area.  Ag newspapers are also a source of hay prices as well. 

The weekly Montana Hay Report, from the USDA Market News, is published online each Friday and provides a summary of hay prices across Montana.  Hay is priced by size of the bale, type of hay, and quality of hay.  For example, last Friday’s report listed Good quality alfalfa (protein content ranged from 18 to 20% and TDN from 58 to 60%) in large square bales at $120 - $140/ton while large round bales of the same type and kind were $10 back.  Good quality grass hay, from 9 to 13% crude protein, in large rounds was reported at $120/ton. 

In closing, I encourage all buyers to request a hay test before purchasing hay, and I encourage all sellers to have a test available for buyers, it just may make your hay even more valuable!  We would never consider buying a pickup without knowing its mileage or engine size, so why would we consider buying hay without knowing its specifications?  Stop by your local extension office to borrow a hay probe, or with questions. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Mistletoe: Facts and Traditions

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

Society has deemed mistletoe to be that awkward plant that we hang in our homes during the Christmas season.  While I don’t see mistletoe around in many homes these days, it still is important to know a little bit about what things we may potentially bring into our homes.

Photo courtesy of Michigan State
University Extension.
According to an Iowa State University Extension source, mistletoe is a semi-parasitic plant with leathery, evergreen leaves and small, white berries.  Mistletoe plants manufacture their own food, but obtain water and mineral nutrients from a host plant.  Host plants include numerous deciduous and evergreen trees.  Mistletoe berries are readily eaten by birds.  The birds digest the pulp of the berries and excrete the seeds.  The sticky seeds stick to the branches of trees.  
American mistletoe can be found growing in deciduous trees from New Jersey and southern Indiana southward to Florida and Texas.  Mistletoe sold during the holiday season is gathered in the wild and most mistletoe is harvested in Oklahoma and Texas. 

Traditions involving mistletoe date back to ancient times.  Druids believed that mistletoe could bestow health and good luck.  Welsh farmers associated mistletoe with fertility.  A good mistletoe crop foretold a good crop the following season.  Mistletoe was also thought to influence human fertility and was prescribed to individuals who had problems bearing children.  It has been used in medicine, as treatment for pleurisy, gout, epilepsy, rabies and poisoning.  In addition, mistletoe played a role in a superstition concerning marriage.  It was believed that kissing under the mistletoe increased the possibility of marriage in the upcoming year.  Today, kissing under the mistletoe is a sign of goodwill, friendship or love. 
Mistletoe should be kept out of the reach of small children and family pets, as the berries are poisonous.  Only in rare cases has eating the berries been reported to harm children, and then usually in large doses.  According to the Pet Poison Helpline, when accidentally ingested by pets, mistletoe poisoning can result in mild signs of gastrointestinal irritation (e.g., drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain).  When ingested in large amounts, abnormal heart rate, collapse, hypotension (low blood pressure), ataxia (walking drunk), seizures and death have also been reported.  The moral of the story is then, if you bring mistletoe into your homes, please be aware of where you place it, especially if intertwined with other decorations at lower heights.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Christmas Tree Farms

Since the Christmas holiday is right around the corner. I thought I would touch on another small sector of farming, Christmas Tree Farming. Christmas trees have been commercially sold in the United States since about 1850 when most trees were cut from forests. Christmas Tree Farms started popping up around the country around the 1950s. Christmas trees require year-round maintenance and they take seven to ten years to grow. Tree loss can occur due to disease, pests and adverse weather conditions.
Christmas Tree Farming is a billion dollar industry. Yes, Billion with a B. Christmas tree farming is typically a small family business and every year, they are up against the big box stores who can offer low discounts and convenient locations. Tree farms can be marketed to a store for wholesale or, what they call, the choose-and-cut method, this would be similar to picking out a pumpkin at a pumpkin patch. Many or the choose-and-cut farms have to include some Agro-tourism side perks like visits from Santa, sleigh rides, or hot chocolate to increase income during this month long season.
                Extension Agents often get calls on how to care for Christmas Trees and how to keep them fresh, fragrant, and safe. An article that I found from North Carolina Extension recommends to make a one half inch fresh cut across the base of the tree before placing the tree in its stand to encourage the tree to get a better drink of water. Be sure to choose a stand that will hold a gallon of water or more. The tree may take up a gallon of water in its first 24 hours and a quart a day after that. You do not need to put anything in the water, but make sure to keep it fresh. Place the tree away from heat sources, heating vents, fireplaces, wood stoves, radiators, or sunny windows. Do not overload the electrical plug ins with all the pretty lights and remember to turn the lights off when you leave home or go to bed. Pretty common sense right
This article is basically segue to the old argument of Real tree vs. Fake Tree. I personally like the ease of a fake tree but many enjoy the smell and tradition of a real tree. Whatever your preference, you now know a little bit more about where your Christmas Tree came from.


Kim Woodring
Toole County Extension

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning – Are you prepared?

Kari Lewis

What has no color, odor, or taste and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), kills over 400 people and sends more than 20,000 Americans to the emergency room every year?  The answer would be carbon monoxide, a ‘silent killer.’  Carbon monoxide is a gas produced any time fuel is burned in vehicles, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces.  Carbon monoxide can accumulate indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it.   
Most unintentional carbon monoxide poisonings happen in January, and the second most in December. As we begin another Montana winter, it is important to recognize the causes and signs of CO poisoning. People suffering carbon monoxide poisoning often don’t realize it as the symptoms, which include headaches, dizziness or lightheadedness, and nausea – are common complaints. Carbon monoxide exposure can result in long-lasting brain issues such as learning and memory impairments or death. 
To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, the CDC recommends the following:
·         Install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector in your home and check the batteries each spring and fall.  The detector should be some place you will hear it if it alarms, such as outside your bedroom.  Detectors should be replaced every five years. 
·         Every year have a qualified technician check your heating systems, water heaters, and other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances.
·         Never use generators, camp stoves, charcoal grills, or any other gas- or oil-burning device inside the home. Never use these devices outside the home near a window.
·         Never run a motor vehicle inside the garage, even if the garage door is open.
·         Never burn anything in a fireplace or stove that is not vented to the outside.
·         Never heat your house with a gas oven.
·         Seek medical attention if you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning is the cause of your dizziness or nausea.

Today’s information was inspired by an article, ‘Carbon Monoxide – the silent killer’ by Barbara Allen, MSU Extension Housing and Environmental Health Program Manager in the MSU Extension Lives and Landscapes magazine.  You can learn more about carbon monoxide and how to prevent exposure to it at the CDC website ( 

I would also like to remind folks that we have some beautiful 2019 Don Greytak calendars available at our office in Cut Bank for just $15.  These calendars feature amazing pencil drawings of 4-H and rural Montana and each calendar also includes 3 raffle tickets for a chance to win a leather-bound collection of Don Greytak calendar covers from the past 30 years.  All proceeds support the Glacier County 4-H Council and the Montana 4-H Foundation.  These make great Christmas gifts, while supporting 4-H!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Poinsettias: Who's Up For a Splash of Color?

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

I really enjoy having a poinsettia around the house during the Christmas season.  It provides a splash of color that I enjoy.  Despite poinsettias being a prominent plant this time of year there are some myths out there that continue to say that it is a poisonous plant.  However, through several research-based university fact sheets I have gleaned the following information.
Photo courtesy of Clemson University

According to a University of Illinois Extension fact sheet poinsettia are not poisonous.  Furthermore, an Ohio State University study showed that a 50-lb. child would have to eat more than 500 leaves to have any harmful effect.  That’s a lot of leaves from a lot of plants when you stop and think about it.  Additionally, the leaves of the poinsettia reportedly have an awful taste so the ability to eat 500 of the leaves might prove difficult.  Even if the plant isn’t poisonous you probably still want to keep your pets away from the plant.  Eating the leaves can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

On a more pleasant note regarding care of poinsettias, there is a M.S.U. Extension fact sheet that is free to the public.  I will just touch on a few tips from this fact sheet for the remainder of my article. First, poinsettias thrive in a bright location with at least six hours of daylight.  To maintain those bright red leaves, keep the room temperature between 67-70°F during the day and 60-62°F at night.  The plants do require a moderately moist soil, not letting it get too wet or dry.  This might be a delicate balance for many of us to keep as houseplants tend to actually get loved to death often.  Water it only until you start seeing moisture come out the bottom of the drain holes in the pot.  You would have to remove the cellophane that the plants come in to see this.  Beyond water and temperature there isn’t much to maintaining your poinsettia during the Christmas season.  They don’t need fertilizer while they are in bloom.  If you intend on keeping your poinsettia after the season you would want to provide a complete fertilizer after it completes its bloom period (usually 6-8 weeks).  This promotes new growth and ensures a dark green foliage. 

After the plant has bloomed you can enjoy them as a house plant.  Around May the leaves will turn a muddy green color, at which point you can cut the plant back to create a rounded appearance, leaving three to four leaves on the remaining stem.  By the end of May, you can expect to see new green growth coming.  To encourage a plant that has been kept during the year to re-flower continue the six to eight hours of sunlight each day but more importantly see that the plant gets at least 14 hours of complete darkness each day beginning October 1st.  Continue this until color appears in the leaves, approximately eight to ten weeks later.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Practical Tips to Reduce Food Waste

Today’s material was inspired by Leah Gramlow’s article, ‘Six Creative Ways to WasteLess Food and Save More Money’ in the MSU Extension Lives and Landscapes publication.  According to the article, “Americans send 52.4 million tons of food to the landfill each year.  On average, a family of four discards between $1,365 and $2,275 in food annually.”  In low-income countries, most food loss occurs during production while in developed countries like the U.S., most food waste occurs at the consumption stage.
Personally, I am just as guilty of buying groceries and then becoming extremely frustrated with myself when I end up not only throwing them out, but also cleaning up the mess they left in the fridge.  Here’s 6 ways to help reduce food waste, which will also stretch your grocery dollars.
Pies are an especially fun way to use
up fruit and stockpile in the freezer.
Photo by Kari Lewis
·       Utilize your freezer.  It’s just as easy to make a big pot of chili or pan of lasagna as a small batch, but   After cooking, portion meals that you cannot eat within 3 to 5 days into individual servings and freeze for later.  Having these meals on hand in the freezer is a great resource for busy nights or to share with someone in need.  When making something like zucchini bread which can dry out within a few days, I like to slice it and then wrap a couple slices together and place in a large Ziploc bag so it’s easy to grab a slice from the freezer and go.
those leftovers can lose their appeal quickly.
·       Make fruits and vegetables easily accessible and ready to eat – By washing and slicing apples, cucumbers, celery, green peppers, grapes, etc., it’s easy to grab a healthy snack.  However, if that produce simply remains in the bag, it is much less appealing.  If I make a large bowl of salad for the week, it gets eaten, but if I leave the individual ingredients in their bags, there’s a much greater chance I’ll be throwing them out later! 
·       Keep those ready to eat, cut up fruits and vegetables in clear containers at eye level so that they are the first thing to be seen and eaten from the refrigerator.  Often times we are just looking for a quick and convenient snack and cut up fruit is just as quick and convenient as chips or crackers if it’s already prepped. 
·       Process or donate produce – If you grew more food from the garden than your family can use, donate it to the local food bank, share it with a neighbor or process it.  This might include making tomato sauce from tomatoes or blanching and freezing vegetables, for example.  For fruits, I especially like to use my dehydrator or slice and freeze fruit to have ready for a crisp or pie. 
·       Proper storage also helps extend produce’s life.  Store bananas, apples, and tomatoes by themselves and keep fruits and vegetables in separate bins.  Wait to wash berries until you’re ready to eat them to prevent mold. 
Sliders are a great way to use leftover meat, buns, etc.  These
turkey sliders featured buns, cranberry sauce, cheese, turkey, and
an easy glaze.  Photo by Kari Lewis.  

Lastly, plan to use those leftovers.  As you plan meals or grocery shop, think of what is already in the fridge or pantry.  That leftover roast beef can become BBQed Beef sandwiches, the leftover turkey can be turned into pot pie or a soup, leftover veggies from a relish tray can become a stir fry, leftover mashed potatoes can go on Shepherd’s Pie, the opportunities are endless!  Casseroles, stir fries, soups, smoothies, berry sauce on pancakes, etc. are all great ways to use up leftovers.

The Lovely Christmas Cactus

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 the Christmas cactus actually performs better and blooms 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 any more than the rest of us.
Photo courtesy of University of Delaware Extension
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.  This is just a fancy way of saying any pattern that recurs every 24 hours as a result of one full rotation of the Earth.  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!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Ways to Ease Holiday Stress

Wendy Wedum, Pondera County Extension

Stressed is Desserts spelled Backwards…

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is December 1st.  With that comes the extra holiday hustle and bustle.  It’s amazing what people can pack into the 31 days of December. Whatever your plans may include it always seems like a little extra stress creeps in. Here are a few tips to hopefully ease   a burden or two this month.

Get some sunshine by taking a walk. Research    shows getting out in nature has many benefits. The fresh air, movement and the vitamin D our body makes on a sunny day will help improve your mood, burn calories and lower built up stress.

Scale back by doing less and enjoying more. Our family does potlucks and that spreads out the cooking responsibilities, so the host has a chance to relax, too. It works well and there’s always plenty of delicious food. If you’re going to do a potluck, remember to make a couple extra phone calls and talk about the menu. In my family we seem to feel there won’t be enough food and everyone usually brings an extra dish of food for “just in case.” A couple years ago bringing the extra dish resulted in having 12 people and 12 pies. Believe me, the pie lovers in the family rejoiced at the 12 pie windfall.

We spend a lot of time trying to please others. Big parties, big meals, Christmas cards, shopping, decorating and so on. Trying to do it all can be stressful.  Give yourself permission to say “NO” when you are overwhelmed. It might be the most efficient time saving tool you have. Saying No will help you to focus on your priorities and protect your own holiday plans. Because when you say yes to something you did not have planned, what are you willing to give up in order to make the new plan happen?

Check out this link for even more tips!

Holiday Baking Class
Want to add healthy recipe ideas to your holiday baking? Come to a class on Holiday Baking on Thursday, December 6th from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Pondera Senior Center in Conrad (311 S. Virginia Street).  Learn tips and tricks to nutritious food substitutions, easy to prepare dishes and ways to keep foods safe.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Dealing with Depression During the Holiday Season

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

Holidays are mile markers.  We experience the same predictable food and rituals that provide family cohesion and social stability.  We might also be reminded of events that have impacted our families over the past year.  For my family, it is the loss of my dad six months ago.  Yes, there is always something we can give thanks for but when there has been hardship, traumatic loss, a frightening diagnosis, unexpected separations – the holidays can be difficult.  So, how do we face the holidays?

Recognize that you aren’t alone.  Sometimes people who have suffered trauma feel like they are looking through a glass at a world that is preparing to enjoy a holiday they can neither feel nor be a part of.  There might be a feeling of estrangement from normal life.  It is not uncommon. Regardless of what you see in the media or read on the greeting cards, lots of folks are carrying emotional pain through the holidays.  You are not alone – you are human.
Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota Extension
Sometimes a traumatic event has taken place near or around the holidays.  As a result, the season may become a trigger for painful memories, feelings and physical stress.  Essential to the nature of trauma is the mix of knowing and not knowing, of intrusion and numbing, of being unable to remember and unable to forget, of facing the trauma and of avoiding it.  Picture that as you are making the journey of recovery, on one side of the road is the pain, memory and impact of the trauma and on the other side is everyday life, play, work, joy, laughter, holidays.  It is the courage to go back and forth from each side that actually moves you forward on the road to recovery.  If you only look at the trauma you won’t find the strength to move forward and if you completely avoid the trauma you will never find a place for it.

During the holiday season, is likely you will have a mix of such feelings – there may be tears as you bake the pumpkin pie; a wish to be with family and a fear of how you will feel without a loved one there.  I experienced a bit of this over the weekend as we got out Christmas decorations.  The room was scattered with boxes and I suddenly thought of how we couldn’t have set up in such chaos with an infant around, whose first Christmas this would have been.  There may be the longing to have your life the way it used to be and the dread of facing a holiday with things so different.  It is OK – take one step at a time – you are allowed to change.
Many people find that reaching out to others helps them feel most thankful during the holidays.  Feeling unable to do a conventional holiday, people have shared joy by serving meals at shelters, taking pets to nursing homes; entertaining at senior citizen centers, packing boxes for troops, cooking for a family that has suffered in a similar way.  I know that my mom continued the tradition my parents started of giving to the community giving tree for children’s needs. 

As you face the holidays, remember that recovery is not an event, it is a process.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Common Sense Christmas shopping

After Thanksgiving tomorrow, Christmas shopping will be in full swing.  According to ABC   Surveys by the Harris Poll indicate that 28% of shoppers are entering this holiday season still paying off debt from last year!  If you have debt lingering around from the 2017 Christmas season, get that debt knocked out before shopping this year!  Today, I’ll share a few tips for avoiding debt this Christmas season and keeping that shopping budget in check. 

News, consumer counseling agencies see a 25% increase in the number of people seeking help in January and February, predominately from people struggling with Christmas debt.
First, make a list of who you will be buying gifts for and then come up with a few ideas that might fit their interests.  I would encourage you to ‘Like’ the Facebook pages of our local businesses as they often highlight sales and upcoming promotions that they have on items that might be on your list.  It is our local businesses who are supporting our communities, let’s make sure to shop there first!
Nearly one third of shoppers have Christmas debt from last year
lingering.  Make 2018 different with common sense shopping!
Photo by Kaleb Lewis
Secondly, consider changing things up this year regarding gift giving.  Just because your family has always exchanged gifts, doesn’t mean you have to continue.  Some families choose to just do one gift for a whole family, just get gifts for the kids under 18, or even draw names so each person only has one person in the extended family to shop for.  By drawing names, people often end up with a nicer gift that is useful, and everyone ends up spending less than they would if you bought for everyone in the family. 
Another option may be to do something fun like a ‘White Elephant’ Gift exchange where each person brings one fun gift that is exchanged.   Within gift exchange groups, it is perfectly acceptable to choose a monetary limit on the value of the gifts.  So often when I mention these ideas to other people, I get a resounding, “I wish we would do that!’  Bring it up…. chances are you’re not the only one in your family who is ready for a change!
Rather than buying a gift for everyone in a family, perhaps think of one gift for the whole family.  This might be a magazine or movie subscription, a game the whole family would enjoy, a professional photo session, or a membership to a local gym or bowling alley, for example.  For children, consider the ‘4 Gift Rule’ – buy your children something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.
In terms of sticking to the budget, leave the plastic at home and take cash when shopping.  If your Christmas budget is $200 and you take $200 in cash with you shopping, when it’s gone, it’s gone.  There are also emotional triggers that occur when you physically use cash that don’t occur when using plastic.  Those emotional triggers in the brain makes you think twice about spending.
If you are planning to shop with a friend or family member, ask them to hold you accountable to your budget.  If they are going to encourage you to buy more, that your kids need or would love that, that you deserve that ‘treat’ for yourself, they are not the right person to be shopping with!  Remember, you will thank yourself in January when you don’t have Christmas debts to pay. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Who Likes Cranberries!!??

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

Photo courtesy of North Carolina State University Extension
I heard a listing recently of people’s most liked Thanksgiving foods.  The obvious choices floated to the top, with the tart cranberry getting very little love.  Cranberries may have ranked pretty low on the list but it made me think about the history and benefits of cranberries.
According to Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association, cranberries have history dating back to being a staple in the diet of Native Americans.  They are one of the three fruits commercially grown and can trace its origin back to North America.  The other two are Concord grapes and blueberries.  Cranberries were grown by Native Americans, using them for food, fabric dye and medicinal uses.  The name of these tart little berries is derived from the word “craneberry” as the cranberry flowers resembles the head and bills of Sandhill cranes. 

I’m sure you’ve heard of some of the health benefits of cranberries and there may be some people that take cranberry pills as a supplement each day.  According to Michigan State University Extension, cranberries are considered a superfood because of their high nutrient content, antioxidant properties, and being a good source of vitamin C.  Health benefits of cranberries include improved immune function, lower risk of urinary tract infections, decreased blood pressure, and prevention of certain types of cancer. 
If you just can’t get past the tartness of straight cranberries, or cranberry sauce, there are other avenues to explore.  There are salsas, sauces, breads and trail mixes where cranberries can all be incorporated.  Alternatively, as many of us may be thinking about decorating for Christmas in the next couple of weeks, there are various decorating themes open to using cranberries, including popcorn and cranberry strings on Christmas trees.  Cranberries really do seem to be a versatile food!  Just make sure to keep the cranberry decorations out of reach of any indoor pets.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Let's Talk Turkey!!

by Wendy Wedum, Pondera County Extension
Let's Talk Turkey...If you are the Turkey Chef at home, remember to keep food safety in mind. 
Thanksgiving is less than a week away!  If you happen to be the cook, plan now to thaw your frozen turkey safely to avoid food borne illnesses.  Here are three safe ways to get your turkey ready to cook. 
1. In the Refrigerator: Keep the turkey in its original packaging. Place it in a tray or pan to catch any juices that may leak during the thawing process. The best place to put your turkey is at the bottom of the refrigerator to prevent any juices from leaking on other food in your fridge. If you thaw your turkey in the refrigerator, it takes about 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds.  So a 16 pound turkey will take about 4 days to thaw out.  If your refrigerator is extra cold or overly full, it may take an extra day.  A thawed turkey can remain in the refrigerator an extra 1-2 days if it thaws quickly.
2. In the Kitchen Sink: Wrap the turkey securely in a water tight wrap and submerge it in sink with cold tap water that is less than 70 degrees.  Submerge the wrapped turkey in the cold water and set the timer for 30 minutes.  When the time goes off, drain and refill the sink. It takes about 30 minutes per pound to thaw a turkey in cold water.  A 16 pound turkey takes about 8 hours to thaw.  It is important to cook the turkey immediately after it is thawed.
3. In the Microwave.  Since it will be a small turkey you will need to remove all the outside packaging and follow the microwave instructions on thawing and power levels.  Make sure to place the turkey on a microwave safe dish to catch any juices.  Cook your turkey immediately after thawing it. 
Bonus tip: Remember to remove the package of giblets from the turkey cavity after thawing.  The giblets need to be cooked separately.
If you run into troubles or have more questions, you can call the Poultry hotline at 1-888-674-6854 (M - F from 10 am to 4 pm Eastern time) or go online and “Ask Karen” website and use the automated response system at
Just be award that there are usually more questions during the holidays. 
Here is a helpful resource for Thawing, Cooking, Storing and Reheating your turkey leftovers.
Check it out and Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Grain storage inspections should begin close to Thanksgiving

Today’s blog material regarding grain storage inspections graciously comes from materials shared by Tyler Lane, former Toole county agent and current Chouteau county agent.

Inspecting grain bins for pests on or before Thanksgiving is a great rule of thumb.  The Lesser grain borer Rhyzopertha dominica is one of the most injurious beetles known to attack stored grain.  The Lesser grain borer causes major physical and off-odor damage to grain in storage. Adults are dark reddish-brown to black in color, and 2-3 mm in length. Larvae are white, stout bodied, C-shaped and immobile. 

Adults and larvae feed on the germ and endosperm, which reduces wheat kernels to hollow husks.  The Lesser grain borer also burrows through the kernel and causes distinctive and heavy damage. R. dominica will survive and develop in the accumulated "flour" produced as the seeds are chewed up. Signs of infestation include large amounts of flour, tunnels and irregularly shaped holes in cereals.

In terms of the lifecycle, the female lays her eggs loosely among the grain so that larva and adults can cause multiple injury. Females lay up to 500 eggs over 3 months in optimal conditions of 91°F and a relative humidity between 50% to 60%. A lesser grain borer can develop from egg to adult in 25-58 days. The larva pupates inside a tunnel in the grain kernel. When the adult emerges, it chews its way out of the grain kernel. The adult may live up to 240 days.

In order to assess populations or the economic threshold, inspect grain to prevent cross contamination.  No economic thresholds exist for R. dominica. The unpleasant odor associated with infestations of lesser grain borer makes infested material unpalatable. If an infestation is found, the grain should be removed from the facility, fumigated, mixed or utilized for livestock feed.

In terms of management and control measures, stored grain should be spread uniformly, and the surface should be leveled. Top-dress grain with residual insecticide. Additional precautions should be taken if grain moisture is above 12-13%.  Aerate the grain using dry ambient air, which maintains uniform temperatures throughout the bin. Maintain grain temperature within 10 degrees of the average daily outside temperature.  Clean spilled grain and, inspect grain every two weeks for signs of insects, and moisture problems. If an infestation is discovered, feed the grain, sell at a reduced price, or fumigate. Fumigants are extremely hazardous and have a short life span. A licensed professional should apply fumigants.

Again, we encourage producers to inspect their grain bins this time of year for any potential pest damage and thank you to Tyler Lane, Chouteau county agent for today’s material. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

"Do you know what's in your haystack?"

It seems hay feeding season may not be very far off, which begs the question, ‘Do you know what’s
Hay feeding season will soon be here.  A forage analysis is
money well spent to know what is in your haystack and if it
meet your herd's needs.  Photo by Kari Lewis.
in your haystack?”  And no, I’m not referring to the deer that seem to frequent some haystacks…but do you know what is in your haystack for hay quality?  A simple forage test is money well spent that provides critical information on everything from protein and energy levels to nitrate presence.

A representative sample from the hay lot should be taken using a hay probe, which is available at your local extension office.  A hay probe attaches to a cordless drill which allows for getting a sample of the hay within a bale.  Grabbing and pulling hay from different bales will NOT provide uniform samples for analysis. 

Approximately 10% of the bales in a lot should be randomly sampled.  Round bales should be sampled from the curved side of the bale and square bales should be sampled either at a 45-degree angle on the side or from the end of the bales to get a nice cross section across the flakes.  The sample from the hay lot should be uniformly mixed, put into a Ziploc bag and shipped to a lab as soon as possible (which your Extension office can help with). 

A forage test will typically cost $15 to $40 depending on which analyses are requested, and results are typically available in 7 to 10 days.  If you have any grain hay, we strongly recommend a nitrate test now that the forage has been cut and baled.  If there’s nitrate present, we can help you determine how much of that hay you can feed and at what level.

Having your forage tested is a critical step before purchasing supplement.  Once forage quality is known, we can then fill in the gaps with appropriate supplementation.  Without knowing forage quality though, we might not purchase the correct supplement, or we may even overspend on a product that we don’t need.  Within Extension, we can help develop rations based upon your available forages to ensure a herd’s nutrient requirements are met for various stages of production and weather conditions. 

Lastly, be sure to ALWAYS request a forage analysis before buying hay.  I’ve seen hay advertised as, “Cow Hay,” “Good Grass Hay,” or “CRP Hay,” but the seller’s definition of what is ‘Good Grass Hay” and the buyer’s definition may be miles apart…. make sure to request an analysis before purchasing hay!

To analyze your hay’s nutrient quality, first a hay sample must be taken.   Each hay lot, that is hay from the same field, same cutting, and harvested under the same conditions, should be sampled separately.  For example, when finished sampling, you might have a sample of 1st cutting alfalfa hay, 2nd cutting alfalfa hay, CRP hay, etc. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Winter Driving Tips

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

While we haven’t seen any dramatic winter storms yet this season, with Montana weather being as unpredictable as it is, it is always a good idea to be prepared for fall and winter traveling.  Listen today to the following tips about winter traveling, especially with the holidays rapidly approaching.
Before you travel, if you must drive in snowy or icy conditions, let family or friends know that you are traveling and what your intended route and destination time is.  While most people carry cell phones these days, have your cell phone in case of emergency.  Be sure to charge it before you leave as well.  Keep your gas tank filled so that your car can start your travels by being prepared.  This also ensures that you have extra fuel that can be used in to heat the car longer if you must stop driving.  Likewise, be sure that your tires have the appropriate level of pressure and tread capability before you set out.

Photo courtesy of Healthy Gallatin
Once you are on the road, it is important to keep the following tips in mind:  When trying to go up a snowy or slippery hill, do so in the highest gear possible.  This reduces the possibility of your tires spinning.  Do not slam on the gas or gun the motor.  When navigating down a hill, stay in a low gear.  This decreases your overall speed and the necessity to use the brakes, which reduces the amount of abrupt sliding caused by braking.  Keep in mind that if the gear is too low it increases the drag and may cause wheels to lock.
Most newer cars feature anti-lock brakes, which automatically “pump the brakes” to stop wheels from locking up.  If your car does not have this feature and you find yourself not in control of your car, “pump” the brakes instead of slamming them with force.  Be cautious of drivers around you.  All drivers react differently to snow and ice on the road.  Keep extra distance between your car and others.  Be aware that other drivers may be nervous, make rash decisions or drive with too much confidence in dangerous conditions.  We’ve all had those people that roar past us on the freeways or two-lane highways, going considerably faster than what is safe for the conditions.  With that thought, always be on the lookout for possible accidents ahead.

Don’t use cruise control in snowy and icy conditions.  You are unable to control acceleration and deceleration as quickly and effectively when using cruise control, which are vital when driving in wintery conditions.  Lastly, think of the safety of others and yourself.  If you find that you are unable to control your car in the conditions, it is much smarter (and safer) to slide into a snow drift, rather than a busy intersection. 
If you would like to read up on more winter driving tips, many Extension sources around the nation feature advice for keeping you and your family safe.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Don and Carolyn Popelka - District 2 Volunteers of the Year

Kari Lewis

This fall, we had two of our 4-H shooting sports leaders, Don and Carolyn Popelka, honored as District 2 Volunteers of the Year!  Don and Carolyn were honored at the Montana 4-H Leadership Forum in Dillon, and as a result of their award, they received $100 for the Glacier County 4-H Shooting Sports program from the Montana 4-H Foundation!

Don and Carolyn Popelka were honored as the 2018
District 2 Volunteers of the Year at the Montana 4-H
Leaders Forum in Dillon this fall.  Photo by Sandra Germaan.
Montana 4-H Volunteers of the Year.
Don and Carolyn became involved with 4-H when they first moved to the community and their sons were invited to join 4-H.  Despite their children having since graduated 4-H, Don and Carolyn have continued to be involved and this past year they coached 21 youth, ages 9 to 17, in archery. 

Within that role, they provide instruction to each youth and run three hours of practice each week from November through March, in addition to time setting up and cleaning up the range.  They ensure that each youth has proper equipment that fits them and their discipline.  They conduct practice interview sessions to prepare youth for fair interviews and plan fun 3-D shoots and parties.

In her nomination, Bess Hjartarson wrote, “The Popelkas willingness to volunteer their time our archery program does not go unnoticed.  As a busy parent, I truly appreciate the time, energy, and resources that they devote to the weekly practices, the extra activities such as holiday parties and 3-D shoots, and the competitions – they have even attended the State Competition 5 hours away and supported our members.  This requires time away from their own daily schedules, making sure each child has the proper gear even if it means loaning an item of their own, and of course, helping them develop goals and work on their project books.” 

Kathleen Barbie, another 4-H parent said in her nomination letter, “Don and Carolyn are very deserving of this award because they go above and beyond for the kids; they really invest a lot into the program, and for me represent the very best of 4-H Leadership and Volunteer work.  Their care for our kids doesn’t stop after the archery season is over, they continue to look to the future of the program and needs of current and incoming 4-Hers.  They are always happy to see my kids and take the time to check in with them during the whole year.  I have a lot of respect for this family and I know Glacier County is very fortunate to have such outstanding leaders working with our 4-H youth.” 

Congratulations again to Don and Carolyn Popelka on their Montana 4-H Volunteer of the Year award, we are so blessed to have them and ALL of our volunteers who help throughout the year.  As I close today, I would encourage you to ask yourself where you can volunteer within the community.  I have several leaders who have consistently said they learn just as much from the kids as the kids do from them.  Whether it is 4-H or another organization within your community, I encourage each person to give of your time and resources in your community to ‘Make the Best Better,’ as the 4-H motto goes. 

To read more about Don and Carolyn's 4-H involvement, check out a blog post from last year,

Monday, October 29, 2018

Pumpkin Prattle

Today I wanted to take a look at an industry that isn’t quite what comes to mind when you talk about agriculture. With Halloween coming up, I wanted to talk about the pumpkin industry.
The top six pumpkin producing states are Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California. They produce over half of the pumpkins harvested in the US. Illinois is the leading processed pumpkin producing state. They produce more than the other five states combined. The soil and the climate in Illinois are ideal for growing the best pumpkins.

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Pumpkins range in size from less than one pound to more than 1,000 pounds. Pie pumpkins range in many sizes, however, the 5- to 10-pound pie pumpkins are most often grown.  Pumpkins in the 10- to 25-pound range are primarily used for fall decorations, carved into jack-o-lanterns, but can also be used for processing. Pumpkins above 25 pounds are called giant. Giant pumpkins typically range between 25 to 1,000 pounds in size. The potential size is determined by the variety grown and growing conditions.
Americans seem to be obsessed with pumpkins as soon as the weather turns cold. From pies to lattes, you can’t turn a corner in the grocery store without seeing something orange or pumpkin flavored. This is the time of year when families head to a pumpkin patch or their local store in search of that perfect pumpkin to carve for their doorstep. Pumpkin patches have become a lucrative agritourism business around the US. For the last few years, Shelby has had our own pumpkin patch at the community garden.
America’s passion for pumpkin dates back to Native Americans, who roasted pumpkins over the fire, but also used the vegetable for medicinal purposes, and weaved mats out of its fibers. Pumpkins are also credited with keeping New England settlers alive when they failed at growing wheat and corn. Centuries later, Irish immigrants would start a new pumpkin tradition: carving jack-o-lanterns. In Europe, they used turnips or potatoes to celebrate their version of Halloween, but after arriving in the United States, they discovered it was much easier to carve pumpkins.
These are just a few fun facts about pumpkins you can use when carving pumpkins with your families this week.


Kim Woodring
Toole County Extension