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!