Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Noxious Oriental Bittersweet

First your eyes are drawn to the attractive yellow capsules enclosing striking red fleshy fruits. Then you notice the berried vine climbing high into the tree canopy or draping over a shrub... maybe even flowing over an arbor or fence. You think to yourself, “ What a striking plant! What is it and where can I get one?”

Thus the siren song of Bittersweet begins. The plant just described is Oriental Bittersweet, Celastrus orbiculatus, and is one of the most aggressive and serious invasive, exotic plants in our area. A twining, climbing vine, Oriental Bittersweet can drape and climb over other desirable shrubs and trees, eventually shading out other plants and girdling the unlucky plants that support the vine.

Enormous root systems, robust annual growth, and numerous seedlings allow the vine to spread throughout forest and urban landscapes. The seeds are also consumed by birds and other animals and are then scattered wherever they are deposited. In western North Carolina, Bittersweet vines are commonly made into decorative wreaths, which are sold to unsuspecting buyers. When the vines are discarded, whether in the compost pile or thrown out in the woods, the cycle begins anew and Bittersweet claims new real estate.

Native plant enthusiasts will point out that there is a native American Bittersweet, Celastus scandens, which is nowhere near as aggressive or threatening as its exotic cousin. However, there is documented evidence that the two species can hybridize, leading to more aggressive tendencies of the resulting hybrid vine. The main difference between American Bittersweet and Oriental Bittersweet is the location of the flowers (and thus, later on the berries). American Bittersweet bears terminal flowers at the tips of the branches, while Oriental Bittersweet bears axillary flowers all along the vine. American Bittersweet seed capsules are orangish-yellow and lack the two-toned coloration.

Oriental Bittersweet
Strangely enough, Oriental Bittersweet is still noted as an ornamental species by some sources despite its reputation as an ecological menace. It is listed as a noxious, invasive weed in North Carolina.

While wintertime is not the recommended time of year for eradication efforts of Oriental Bittersweet, it is the perfect time for easily identifying where the vine persists. Flagging tape or selective markings with spray paint can label the plant now so that control efforts can be made during the following growing season. The USDA publication Nonnative Invasive Plants of Southern Forests has information on controlling Oriental Bittersweet as well as other devastating invasive plants.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Free Cut Flower Production for Beginner Mountain Growers

Free Cut Flower Production for Beginner Mountain Growers
Educational Workshop - Thursday, December 9, from 1:00 PM-5:00 PM
Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center

Could growing and selling cut flowers be a profitable enterprise for you and your farm? On the afternoon of Thursday, December 9, a panel of regional experts will present on topics that can help you answer that question. Whether you are preparing to farm for the first time, or just to add cut flowers to your current agricultural enterprises, winter is the time to plan for success. Topics covered will include:
·      What It Takes to Get Started in Cut Flowers
·      Insects and Diseases of Cut Flowers
·      Perennials for Cut Flower Production
·      Organic and Alternative Pest Control Options for Cut Flower Growers
·      Marketing Options for Cut Flowers

The workshop, which begins at 1:00 PM on Thursday, 12/9, is free and open to the public. It is geared toward educating commercial farmers and market gardeners, but smaller-scale gardeners with an interest in cut flower production are also welcome. The workshop program has been approved by NCDA for 2 hours of Pesticide Credits in License Sub-Classes L,N,O,D, and X. The workshop will be held at the Watauga County Agricultural Conference Center, located at 252 Poplar Grove Rd., in Boone, NC.

A team of professional growers and Extension Agents with several decades of experience in the cut flower industry between them will present the workshop:
·      Susan Wright founded Shady Grove Gardens & Nursery in 1986, doing landscape consulting and design. Shady Grove Garden's main business is now growing perennials, cut flowers and offering floral design with locally grown flowers.. She sells cut flowers to several wholesale clients as well as at the Saturday Watauga County Farmers Market and the Thursday Blowing Rock Fresh Market.
·      Hollis Wild is the founder of Appalachian Trees Nursery in Glendale Springs, NC, and a member of the Ashe County Farmers Market. She now raises a mix of vegetables and ornamentals, in greenhouses, high tunnels, and out in the field. She received a 2010 RAFI grant to add perennial species for cut flower production to her operation.
·      Craig Adkins is an Area Specialized Agent for Commercial Horticulture responsible for the commercial horticulture educational program in Caldwell, Alexander, Burke, Catawba, McDowell and Wilkes Counties. He has worked with a wide range of successful flower growers, from small-scale market gardeners to large wholesale nurseries.
·      Richard Boylan is an Area Specialized Agent for Alternative Agriculture in Ashe & Watauga Counties.
For more information and to register, call Watauga Cooperative Extension at 828-264-3061.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Looking for Laricobius

The US Forest Service is trying to determine if breeding populations of a beetle known as Laricobius are establishing themselves on adelgid-infested hemlocks. The beetles are natural predators of the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) and are found on western hemlocks on the west coast. Local entomologist, Dr. Richard McDonald, has been collecting Laricobius beetles for the Forest Service to release them here in our adelgid-infested mountains. The Forest Service has established several sampling sites to try and capture the beetles to prove that they are setting up shop, feeding on adelgids, and reproducing on their own.

County Director, Jim Hamilton, has accompanied US Forest Service Intern Bill Sweeney on several sampling trips to a stand of hemlocks adjacent to Valle Crucis Community Park. Pictured below are Sweeney (right) and Brian Chatham from Watauga Soil and Water checking a "beat board" (where foliage has been shaken to see what falls out!). Since Laricobius beetles hatch from eggs laid in the litter below trees, collection traps are placed into the soil in an attempt to capture them as they crawl out of the soil to seek out adelgids. While a few beetles were found in the foliage of these hemlocks earlier in the year, their offspring have yet to be detected in the traps this fall.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Local Food Movement Growing… But Not Yet Italian

I just returned from Terra Madre, a conference in Torino, Italy, where around 5000 people who care about the future of the world’s food system gathered. This conference is organized by Slow Food International and invites food producers, activists, artisans, educators and chefs from 150 countries who are united by a common goal of global sustainability in food. The "food communities" come together to share innovative solutions and time-honored traditions for keeping small-scale agriculture and sustainable food production alive and well.
As you might guess, Slow Food was formed as an antidote to “fast food”, when the first McDonald’s invaded Rome back in 1985. Some Italians didn’t want trans-national corporations to take over their food culture. So they held peaceful gatherings in people’s homes, offering homemade ziti and long conversations as a more attractive option to “fast food”. Twenty-five years later, “fast food” and industrial scale agriculture definitely have an influence on the Italian diet and culture. But the Slow Food culture is still alive and well.
Traditional food enthusiasm was rampant at Salone del Gusto, Slow Food’s food festival, which was held adjacent to Terra Madre. There were 910 small to mid-scale food exhibitors from around the world, with 90% of them calling Italy home. Over 200,000 people visited the festival. Many producers offered samples of their high quality products, such as cheese, wine, beer, chocolate, baked goods, meat and pastas. As I strolled past endless yummies, I dreamed of living closer and taking home lots of this wonderful tasting food. Apparently, many Italians are willing to pay a little more to the small to mid-scale food producers for the quality they desire. By doing so, they are supporting their culture, the local economy, and know the story behind their food.
A leather shop-keeper, attempting to sale a jacket to me said, “Americans know fast food, Italians know fashion.” While I found this comment insulting, I suppose it’s the way some of the world views our food culture. Certainly there is room for convenience in our lives, and being able to drive past a window and pick up dinner can be a savior for families on the go.
But Americans are craving more than just calories. We are seeing a renaissance of food culture happening across our country. Slow Food USA has more than 200 chapters in the U.S. who invite members and the community to taste, celebrate and champion the foods and food traditions important to their regions. Regional food traditions nourish our bodies and our souls.
Our High Country communities are supporting farmers’ markets more than ever. Existing markets have swollen and additional markets have sprung up.
While the average age of growers has dramatically increased in the U.S., we are seeing an interest among young people in growing and producing food. ASU recently established a B. S. degree in Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture. They are teaching students how to sustain themselves and communities through hands-on experience at the ASU sustainable development farm.
Community members want to have fresh, locally grown produce throughout the winter. Several local growers have received grants to establish greenhouses. High Country Community Supported Agriculture is a model that brings multiple farmers and local eaters together once each month from November through April. For more information, e-mail highcountrycsa@gmail.com. Other individual growers make arrangements to sell to community members during cold months, such as Zydeco Moon Farm in Ashe County.

Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture promotes our local resources by organizing the High Country Farm Tour. In August, over 200 community members had the opportunity to visit 17 farms. The visits connected them with local food sources, encouraged a celebration of agricultural heritage and rural landscape. They continue to offer monthly educational programs to the community. http://www.brwia.org

Our local Slow Food chapter recently offered a heirloom apple tasting, and growers Bill Moretz and Ron Joyner shared their knowledge and harvest of old apple varieties. http://slowfoodboone.wordpress.com/

The list of happenings supporting the unique food culture of the High Country is large and growing. I would like to keep you updated on local and cultural food issues and our progress as a community. Please contact me about anything that you would like to share.

by Margie Mansure

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cold Weather Tips For Poultry

The spring and summer are usually easy seasons to manage your chickens, however, winter may offer a few challenges. Here is a few tips to keep your chickens productive and happy.

Chickens actually can do very well in cold weather. Egg production usually will slow down with colder weather. The first instinct people have is to lock their chickens in the hen house or outbuilding. This can cause more trouble than the cold. Chickens should be provided shelter in the winter, but be sure to provide plenty of ventilation. Ventilation should allow air exchange but not allow wind through the house.

If you allow your hens outside in the summer, offer them the choice in the winter. Exercise is important for the health of the birds. To help keep hens warm keep adequate feed for the birds.
The idea of adding heat to the chicken house to increase winter production has been tried and usually doesn’t pay off. To help keep the birds warm add a layer of straw or hay to the floor of the house. Feeding scratch in the evening helps keep chickens busy and keeps their crop full before going to roost.

One of the most important things in the winter is a constant supply of water. It is challenging in the winter to keep non-frozen water supplied to your birds. Many of the traditional waterers are hard to open when frozen, and plastic waterers will freeze and crack. Galvanized waterers work better but still can be damaged if the water is allowed to freeze solid. The best practice is to fill waterers half full in early morning and again in the afternoon. When temperatures are below 15˚ it is best to take the waterers in at night.

In the winter it is best to gather eggs twice a day, especially in freezing conditions. Chickens will naturally lose their feathers, which is called molting. During the molt, egg production will decrease, and the birds will eat less. Production will increase next spring as daylight increases.
The winter is the time of year that you should be on the lookout for predators. Raccoons, skunks and often neighborhood pets will get into chickens this time of year. The best way to avoid predator losses is to prevent them from occurring. Make your hen house and run predator “proof”. Some predators can fit into small openings, while others prefer to dig their way in. Examine your pen to eliminate holes, weak places in the fence, and remove brush and weeds from around the chicken house.
A few simple steps now can help maintain your chicken flock, keeping it productive.

The five P's for winter feeding the beef herd

Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance

The wind is blowing and the rain has stopped for now, the fall colored leaves are now dropping faster, winter will be just right around the corner. Last winter was a trying time for everyone, but was especially hard on livestock and their caretakers. I think the severity of winter found many people not prepared, I hope this year will be different! Here are some tips to help you prepare for winter.

The first step to take is to inventory your animals, and identify groups that have like nutritional needs. How many cows in middle gestation, these should be bred 5-7 months. Bred replacement heifers, weaned calves, bulls and lactating cows. Typically 1100 lb. gestating cows will need 26.5 lbs. of dry matter daily, this translates to 31 lbs. of hay daily.

The next step is to determine how many days you will be feeding. If you still have some grazing left you can estimate the amount of forage available. A general rule of thumb is that there is 200 lbs. of dry matter yield per acre of inch of forage height. This is a rough estimate and depends on density of the stand. It is common in our area to feed hay, 150 to 180 days.

The third step is to inventory your hay supply. The only way to truly know how much feed value the hay contains is to have it tested. The hay testing costs $10 per sample with the NCDA. If you do not test your forages then you should at least give them an estimate for quality. Most of the hay tested in our area will be 7-10% CP and 45-55% TDN. This quality of hay will feed middle gestating cows and mature bulls providing sufficient nutrients except for some minerals.

Growing and lactating animals need increased nutrition to be productive. The classes of animals with higher nutritional requirements should be supplemented. There are many byproducts of grain processing that meet the nutritional needs of the beef herd. Some of these products are soybean hulls, corn gluten feed, cottonseed, and many combinations sold by feed companies. The extension service can help you develop a feeding plan including a balanced ration.

The fourth step is to examine your feeding system. Do you simply place round bales out in pastures? Are they fed in rings or bale feeders, or are they rolled out on the ground? Research has shown that by simply placing round hay bales out in the pasture, losses can exceed 30%. If you are storing hay outside and uncovered your total losses could easily be 50%. It will not take very long to recoup the cost of a hay ring, to reduce these losses. There should be enough feeder space to prevent lower status cows from not receiving enough hay. The common practice here in the mountains of unrolling hay can be very effective. If this system is only used when the weather is favorable, then losses can be reduced. Unrolling hay also offers the advantage of allowing all cows to eat at the same time, avoiding boss cows becoming overfed and more timid cows not getting enough to eat.
Take the time to do a little planning to insure you have a plan to feed your cows this winter. A little time spent now can help avoid problems this winter, especially if it turns out similar to last year.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

State Champ Butternut??

I'm pretty certain that Watauga County can add a state champion butternut (Juglans cinerea) to its list of champion trees.  On the way out to a site visit at David Yates' property in the Cool Springs community, Soil and Water Technician Brian Chatham mentioned that Mr. Yates had a big butternut on his property. He wasn't kidding!! The tree measured 22 feet in circumference at chest height and has a crown spread of over 100 feet. PRETTY IMPRESSIVE.  Unfortunately the picture doesn't really do it justice. We will definitely be nominating the tree into the North Carolina Champion Big Tree program. Currently Watauga County holds claim to the state champ sugar maple and weeping willow.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Lingering Chores for Landscapes

For die-hard gardeners, it can be a bittersweet experience to have the dormancy and cold of winter rapidly approaching.  To ensure that your gardens and landscapes weather through the upcoming season there are a few helpful reminders to act upon while ground is still visible!

Mulch, mulch and more mulch
Mulch helps insulate plant roots from the cold and also helps to reduce soil moisture loss.  A properly applied mulch layer can also help reduce the likelihood that plants will be uplifted from the soil during freezing and thawing over the course of the winter.  But don’t go overboard… huge piles of mulch around tree trunks and branches can actually lead to rot and other problems.  Usually a 2-3” layer of mulch is ample for winter protection. 

Mulch is also a great cover for chipmunks, mice and voles that can easily girdle young trees and shrubs.  Pull the mulch away from tree trunks and branches, leaving several inches between the plant and the mulch layer.  This open space makes critters more visible to predators and can help you visibly detect if you do have rodent pests sneaking around your plants. 

Water well
Water is essential for plant growth and survival.  With evergreen plants that hold onto their leaves and needles throughout the winter, water is a necessity for making it through to spring.  Desiccation, or the drying out of foliage, is a common culprit for plant death in the winter.  Drying winter winds coupled with intense winter sun causes plants to transpire and that lost moisture cannot be adequately replaced if the ground is frozen below the plants root system.   It is important to water plantings well during a dry fall to ensure that plants can access suitable moisture reserves.  A long deep soaking of the soil can help to ease the stress of winter conditions.  It is also not uncommon to water landscape plants during warm spells throughout the winter, to help replace some of the lost moisture. 

Wind barriers
For small evergreens that are in exposed locations you can create a seasonal windbreak to protect them from harsh, drying winter winds.  For most plants, it’s best to use metal stakes or other available materials like pallets, to first build a frame around the plant and then wrap materials like burlap or canvas around the frame.  Avoid using black plastic as a wrapping material as this can cause alter the ambient temperature around the plant and lead to problems.  While it may not look fabulous, this method can save young evergreens and help them to weather through the winter.  Anti-desiccants are also used as a foliar spray on evergreen foliage, however frequent application is required and UV light can degrade them so quickly that they often are not successful. 

So enjoy these last few opportunities to be outside in your gardens and spend the winter dreaming of the new plants you’ll add next year!

High Country Local Food Summit

The second annual High Country Local Food Summit aims to connect community members in the High Country interested in maturing the region’s local food system.   Local government officials, farmers, restaurants, grocery store managers, entrepreneurs, land trusts, advocacy groups, students and consumers are invited to attend the day and a half event focusing on education, collaboration and inspiration.  The 2010 theme will be Sustaining Communities: Bringing Economy, Ecology and Equality to the Table.

Key issues of economy, ecology, and equity within our local food system were defined during last years' Summit. This years' Summit will provide ample opportunity for networking, planning and problem solving through a mixture of expert panels, working groups, and lively facilitated discussion as we work toward a more sustainable community in the High Country. The Goodnight Family Sustainable Development Program at Appalachian State University and the Watauga County Cooperative Extension Service present this event with generous support from Mazie Jones Levenson.  The Summit will be held at the Valle Crucis Conference Center in beautiful Valle Crucis, NC on Friday and Saturday November 12-13, 2010

No matter what your interest— farming, government policy, land use, community service, entrepreneurship, social justice and equity, youth engagement, healthy eating and wellness, or natural resource conservation— we all stand to benefit from the multiple opportunities this year's Food Summit has to offer.

The summit fee of $25 will cover any materials and meals during the Summit. All food will be locally produced.  Panel and working group session topics include:

Farm Finances and Grant Monies, Food Security and Hunger, Sustainable Forestry, Possibilities for Local Meat Processing Facilities in the High Country, Farmer Access to Appalachian Food Services at ASU, Direct Marketing, Land Access for Older and Newer Farmers, and Overcoming Obstacles for Farm Profitability.

Seating is limited, so reserve your space now!  Visit http://susdev.appstate.edu/2010-high-country-local-food-summit to register.  

Questions?  Email highcountrylocalfoodssummit@gmail.com or call 828-262-7248. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

NCSU River Course comes to Banner Elk

Track hoes are digging, vegetation is being planted, and fish are finding a new home in Shawneehaw Creek this week.  The Banner Elk town park has been instrumental in demonstrating stream restoration projects over the years with the final phase being completed this week.  Over 30 workshop participants observed the contractors and designers performance during the  NCSU Biological and Agricultural Engineering River Course training in conjunction with the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, Northstate Environmental, Blue Ridge Environmental Consulting, the Town of Banner Elk, and the Cooperative Extension.  Folks got to see first-hand the installation of trout habitat structures, bioengineering techniques, and the use of a pump around system to reduce sediment and stress on "critter" populations.  During this two day, professional development workshop environmental professionals, including engineers, ecologists, biologists, hydrologists, geomorphologists, landscape architects, planners and natural resource program managers,  had "hands-on" learning experiences with field work in small groups, data analysis, design case studies, and site tours.
For more information on River Course Programs go to

Watching "Mosquito Hawks" at the Constructed Wetland

As they peered through their reliable binocular lenses, they watched the
defenders of the pond put on a show of aerial acrobatics.  John and
Jeannette Murray have been identifying the different species of
dragonflies and damselflies that have moved into the newly constructed
wetland in Boone this summer.  The couple have been regular visitors to
the wetland and said they enjoy unwinding with a stroll around the ponds
observing the hovering, spinning, fascinating show the insects choreograph. 
Since July 2010, they have counted 15 species of dragonflies and 5 species
of damselflies.  (see below for list of species names)

You may be wondering how to tell the difference between a dragonfly and
damselfly?  The best way is to look at their wings when they are at rest.
Typically dragonflies keep their wings out to the sides flat at rest. 
Damselflies have most of the same body parts as dragonflies but keep their
wings closed above their body when at rest.  The damselfly is also a
predator but they typically aren't as fierce and quick as the dragonfly.

Observing this many species at the wetland is a wonderful sign, it exhibits
a thriving ecosystem.  The dragonflies are sometimes referred to as
"mosquito hawks" because of the amount of pesky mosquitoes they consume. 
Some species mouths are big enough to devour mosquitoes in mid flight,
while others will catch their prey mid flight and fly to a leaf to eat.
Not to worry because rarely are their mouths big enough to bite humans.

One of the most interesting aspects of these insects is the way they spend
the first part of their lives.  Female adults will lay eggs in water
edges, wet plant material, and depending on species they will hatch
anywhere from a few weeks to a few seasons.  Once the larvae is in the
water they swim and hide and wait for prey to swim by.  Throughout spring,
summer, and fall, exuvia can be found lingering on plant stems which is
the leftover exoskeleton that is left behind after the larvae splits and
the adult pushes itself free.

The numbers of dragonflies and damselflies are starting to dwindle with the
cooler temperatures this fall, we are all looking forward to observing these daring 
stunt fliers in 2011. If you are interested in learning more about these 
captivating insects, a guide book has recently been produced by Giff Beaton, 
Dragonflies and Damselflies of Georgia and the Southeast.   
List of Odonates found at the wetland Summer 2010 (thank you to 
John and Jeannette Murray for the list compilation)

Common Whitetail
Widow Skimmer
Eastern Amberwing
Twelve Spotted Skimmer
Golden Winged Skimmer
Eastern Pondhawk
Common Green Darner
Blue Dasher
Slaty Skimmer
Swamp Darner
Wandering Glider
Black Saddlebags
Autumn Meadowhawk

Ebony Jewelwing
Familial Bluet
Blue Fronted Dancer
Powdered Dancer
Eastern Forktail

Monday, October 4, 2010

NC 4-H Youth Development announces the “Hungry to Help” initiative

We’ve all heard the old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Well, it’s true – nutritious food is good medicine. Food is one of our most basic needs. Along with oxygen, water, and shelter, it is necessary for human survival. In a nation as affluent as the United States, no child should go hungry. Yet everyday hunger disrupts the lives of 1 in 5 children in North Carolina. 

Hunger is a problem hiding “in plain sight” in North Carolina. Whether it involves skipping meals, eating less than is needed to live a healthy life, or making do with foods that are filling but not nutritious, hunger’s effects can be devastating, especially among our more vulnerable citizens, including children and older adults.

To combat hunger the NC 4-H Youth Development program and the Food Banks of North Carolina, all of which are affiliates of Feeding America our nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, have teamed up to promote awareness of hunger in North Carolina and to make an impact in local communities through a new hunger awareness initiative entitled “Hungry to Help.” 

The Agricultural Conference Center is serving as a “drop-off” location for canned food donations, so leave an item when you visit.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

4-H Horse Show in the Works

Teens plan local horse show

Local 4-H horse show participants missed having a local horse show for youth and decided to get one up and going again.  They have been hard at work to take ideas from the best of shows they have attended to create a plan for one locally.   Having their leadership and input has brought some creative and exciting ideas that adults may have overlooked.  There are many advantages to a local horse show for youth in our community.  Many involved in horse showing must travel long distances for shows, expending a great deal of time and money.  And there is a draw here for people from other areas- the temperatures are more reasonable and people love to visit the high country. 

Involvement with horses provides numerous rewards, from increasing physical activity, mental and social benefits, and stress reduction. 
“Recent (2005-2006) surveys conducted by both the American Youth Horse Council and Penn State University have found that equine activities develop life skills such as decision making, communicating, problem solving, goal setting and empathy. In the AYHC Study, a significant positive relationship was found between total horsemanship skills development and life skills development.”
**Source (http://www.extension.org/pages/Benefits_of_Horse_Ownership)

The horse show is still in the planning stage and helpers are wanted to make it happen.   Planning meetings are occurring regularly.   If you would like to be involved in making it happen, contact Watauga County 4-H.

Monday, September 27, 2010

2010 BigSweep River Clean Up

Dumpsters are full, sneakers are wet, smiles are wide, and the Watauga River is a whole lot cleaner!   Thanks to the 124 volunteers who cleaned up 1,940 pounds of trash on Saturday, September 25, 2010!

This year's clean up could not of happened without the River Captains.  These are the people who shuttle, transport trash to the dumpsters, and provide boats and leadership for the volunteers who show up to their site.  This year's River Captains who led volunteer efforts in the Watauga Watershed include:  Foscoe Fishing Company Clay Benfield, Tyler Almond, and Scott Farfone; Watauga River Anglers' Steve Michel, Matt Michel, and Brody Green; Grant Seldomridge of River and Earth Adventures; Riverkeepers Donna Lisenby and Eric Chance; and Andi Cochran, Dick Hearn, Joan Hearn, and John Whitley.  Thank you all so much!!!

GDS disposal service was a tremendous help, providing four open top dumpsters across the watershed for volunteers to utilize.  Last year our dumpsters were so full they spilled out the tops.  This year GDS provided larger 8x12ft bins!  Thank you so much GDS!!!

Southern Peaks Real Estate Services provided drinks and snacks for volunteers; they also purchased a first aid kit for us to use just in case!  Thankfully we only had a few scrapes and bumps.  Harris Teeter also provided snacks for volunteers. 

Barbara Michels, ASU Freshmen Seminar Professor, had 64 of her students participate, and she provided lunch for all of them at Valle Crucis Park!  Thank you to her students: Matt Aulbert, Carol Holloway, Nick Alvarez, Kellie Reese, Chelsea Gaudette, Joanna Poage, Jordan Elliot, Meredith Reamey, Davis Inman, Jake Dew, Lauren Leftwich, Sarah Tipton, Wyatt Morton, Will Coble, Jackie Chan, Patrick Gitter, Ashley Bramble, Taylor Walker, Stephanie Hodges, Leslie Maxey, Amy Kwaitkowski, Ramsy Marra, Everette Israel, Natalie Sridhar, Adam Wicker, Andy Lipocky, Dylan Turner, Carl McFarland, Derrick Hudson, Andrew Garner, Jon King, David Weiss, Adam Kuchenreuther, Jacob Caldwell, Will Black, Rachel Nave, Alex Souder, Allison Neese, Delana Hutchens, Jonathan Wolfe, Gabriela Celi, Emily Gillespie, Andrew Jarrett, Matt Thomas, Tiffany Davis, Emilee Icenhour, Amanda Sawyer, Josephine Sze, Ansley Putnam, Garrett Bowman, Sean Palmer, Alex Martin, Alex Vasquez, Ben Johnson, Ryan McMillan, Sabrina Stephens, Shineece Sellars, Samantha Bailey, and Adam Vanderpool.  I’d also like to thank Randy Carter, Len Moody, and Will and Glenda Trivette as landowner partners.     

As we made our way to the county line, Andy Hill's Freshmen Seminar cleaned up from Trash Can Falls down to Guy Ford Rd finding a car bumper, refrigerator door, trash can, dilapidated DOT traffic cones and barrels, and old political signs for people who are not even running in the election right now.   Thank you to Ethan Young, Ted LeGrand, Zeb Rambotham, Haley Dantos, Frankie Vierela, Kelli Jo Havenek, Tyler Matthews, Brian Hee, Stephen Coggins, Traci Keith, Bethany Douglass, Daniel Philips, Andrew Hill, Mike Huffman, Kathryn Peverall, Janice Tallman, David Wilson, Grant Huether, Eric Sensenbrenner, Brianna Nichols, Hannah Houff, Zachary Yllanes, Robert Perfetto, Jessica Hutcher, Melissa, Sybert, Kueta Kleven, Charles Sordian, Richard, Awopetu, and Michael Stanton.

After the clean up, Foscoe Fishing Company's Tyler Almond stated that the river is really low right now and very clear; they were able to see lots of trout in the river.  Some large items the volunteers retrieved at this site include a 300 pound I-beam, tires, lots of scrap metal, and bed springs.  ASU’s Circle K Club came out to clean including: Megan Northcote, Jennifer Mann, Zach Anderson, Chris Griffith, and other volunteers include John Murray, James Rogers, Kathryn Trexler, Sai Estep, Matt Rivers, Dottie Farfone, Nick Bennett, Chelsie Mitchell and Lawson Bloom.  

Stewart Skeate's class from Lees McRae also participated in the clean up and retrieved seven tires, assorted pieces of metal, drainage pipes, and a beer keg!  Dr. Skeate said that Elk was actually quite clean compared to years past, possibly due to the dry summer and less runoff into the river. 

A few years ago, my friend Lee J Ball told me he took an oath to pick up three pieces of trash a day.  He inspired me to do the same.  It’s such an easy task, and if everyone picked up three pieces a day we could have a litter free community.  Won’t you please consider taking an oath to pick up three pieces a day!

Thank you to all the folks who contributed to this years Watauga Watershed Clean Up!  I am so grateful to be a part of this caring community!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Quarantine to prevent Thousand Cankers Disease

In response to the detection of Thousand Cankers Disease in Tennessee, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has executed an exterior quarantine in order to prevent the movement of this disease and the walnut twig beetle into North Carolina. Thousand Cankers Disease is caused by a pathogen that is transmitted by the walnut twig beetle and is most frequently associated with black walnut trees.

“The detection of this disease in Tennessee greatly increases the risk the disease will move into North Carolina,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “The quarantine prohibits the movement of plant material and other high-risk materials from counties where the disease has been detected in order to protect the black walnut species in our state.”

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Division of Forest Resources, NCDA&CS and federal partners will be working to implement comprehensive field surveys for this pest. These surveys will take place in high-priority counties adjacent to the Tennessee infestations. Survey crews will be searching for symptoms of the disease on trees, along with collecting and analyzing suspect samples.

The detection of Thousand Cankers Disease in Tennessee is the first discovery of this pest east of the Mississippi River. Since its initial detection in Knox County, Tenn., officials have confirmed an infestation in Blount County, which borders Swain County, N.C., along with infestations in Anderson and Union counties, Tenn.

The exterior quarantine issued by NCDA&CS prohibits the movement of identified high-risk materials from areas currently known or found to harbor the walnut twig beetle or the fungal pathogen. Typical materials include firewood of any hardwood species; plant and plant parts of the genus Juglans such as walnut trees, including nursery stock, budwood, scionwood or green lumber; and other material living, dead, cut or fallen, including logs, stumps, roots, branches and composted and un-composted chips; or other articles known to present a risk of spread. Presently, the entire states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah and Washington have been confirmed as areas known to be infected by the pathogen and are included in the exterior quarantine.
Exemptions to quarantine are nuts, nut meats, hulls, processed lumber (100 percent bark-free, kiln-dried with square edges) and finished wood products without bark, such as walnut furniture, instruments and gun stocks.

Landowners and homeowners in North Carolina are also strongly encouraged to watch for signs of the Thousand Cankers Disease on black walnut trees. Typical symptoms vary depending on the stage of the disease, but commonly include thinning crowns and yellowing or wilted leaves in the crown, leaves that are smaller than normal and relatively recent dead limbs.

Individuals with suspect trees are encouraged to contact the NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division for a consult by calling 1-800-206-9333 or by e-mail at newpest@ncagr.gov.

Walnut twig beetle image courtesy of www.extension.org

Choose and Cut Tree Farms

Watauga County is home to nearly 100 family-operated tree farms and while fall has just arrived, it's never too early to start thinking about where to buy the Perfect Christmas tree! Many farms, including wholesale and Choose and Cut, can be contacted directly through the website: www.wataugachristmastrees.org.

For those of you who enjoy coming to the mountains, consider the family-oriented tradition of Choose and Cut, where you can hand pick the tree of your choice and meet the growers who had tended the tree since it was planted in the field. Choose and Cut farms offer a variety of activities, including hayrides, petting zoos, Christmas shops, and even sledding! Looking for more than just a tree? Choose and Cut farms offer wreaths, roping, and tabletop trees to suit your needs. Many farms also partner with area hotels and B & Bs to offer package deals, so be sure to check out what each farm offers at www.wataugachristmastrees.org. Also visit www.ExploreBooneArea.com and www.highcountryhost.com to plant shopping and outdoor activities while you're in the High Country. Click here to see the full list of 2010 Choose and Cut farms!

Friday, September 3, 2010

You can Swat-A-Litterbug

The NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has made it easy for citizens to report someone for littering from their vehicle, including cigarette butts. Click here to find a Swat-A-Litterbug report. All you need to do is turn in the license plate number, and where you saw the littering, and the offender will receive a formal notification letter in the mail. To see a copy of the letter, click here.

There are over 176,000,000 pounds of cigarette butts discarded every year and the numbers that end up on the street are hard to estimate. Blowing Rock Middle School students went out last week and picked up 487 cigarette butts on one block in town. Yuck! Those butts end up in our waterways, in animals stomachs, and even in bird nests which reduce hatching rates.

• One cigarette butt in two gallons of water will leak toxic chemicals within an hour of being exposed to the water.

• Discarding cigarette butts on streets, parking lots, walkways, lawns, and beaches is a violation of litter laws and has been proven to have a severe adverse impact on the environment - the water, air, and land.

•Cigarette filters are not made of cotton and they do not biodegrade. They are made of compressed fibers of cellulose acetate, a plastic, similar to photographic film. Each filter contains a bundle of 12,000 tiny fibers painted white with titanium dioxide, which can be likened to shoe polish.

• Our earth home is being used as an ashtray by over a billion smoking human beings. Silence lends consent.

Please, don't hesitate, help educate. You can also pick up Swat-A-Litterbug report cards in the front foyer of the Watauga County Cooperative Extension Service.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

2010 High Country Farm Tour a Success!

The Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture’s High Country Farm Tour was held August 7th and 8th. The tour featured 17 farms in Ashe, Watauga and Wilkes counties. Participants paid $20.00 per vehicle load to visit as many farms as possible for both days, and fun was had by all. Here’s what the tour guide states as the purpose of the tour, “The goal of this Farm Tour is to help connect you and your family with where your food comes from, who is growing it, and how it is being grown. Too often, when you ask children where food comes from, they say, “the grocery store!” Only two generations ago, most people grew up on farms and took part in food harvests on a regular basis. Local and organic food systems are critical to preserving our natural environment and resources and to achieving socioeconomic stability. From farmer to consumer, we all play a role in creating a sustainable future for generations to come.”
NC Cooperative Extension helped organize and sponsor this tour. Way to go, Ag. Girls!!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

National Christmas Tree Association Farm Tour

Last week, Christmas tree growers from all over the United States converged on the High Country for farm tours as part of the 2010 National Christmas Tree Convention. Harry Yates, a Watauga County grower and member of the WCCTA, hosted a group out at his farm in Zionville where he demonstrated mistblowing and talked about pest and groundcovers for Christmas trees. Simon Smith of Wintergreen Farm and Scott Taylor of Stone Mountain Farm also assisted with the farm tour.  David Tucker, President of the WCCTA, also hosted a group on his choose-and-cut farm and corn maze that he's opening this year http://www.newrivercornmaze.com/.  Watauga County's Horticulture Agent, Meghan Baker, was on hand to discuss the importance of agritourism in the county as an added value effort for Christmas tree production.  David Tucker was also the winner of the NC Christmas Tree Association tree contest and will go up against other growers in 2011 to compete for the White House tree.

2010 Farm-City Celebration

The 55th Annual Farm City Celebration at the Blair Farm was a huge success. Despite a few intermittent showers, over 200 folks came out to celebrate Watauga County's agricultural heritage. Cecil Gurganis and his gang played bluegrass and mountain music unplugged under the hemlock tree, the Pasta Wench and Bare Essentials had local food samples on hand, miniature goats, alpacas, cows, donkeys and chickens got the kids' attention, and the Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway helped participants celebrate the Parkway's 75th anniversary as well. The Historic Blair Farm in Boone was the chosen locale again for this year's celebration. Bandana's served up a delicious local foods dinner with potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, and strawberries from High Country growers, Charles Church and Ernie Dollar.

At the awards ceremony at 4pm, the annual champions of local agriculture were recognized for their commitment to the community:
*Friend of Agriculture Award: Watauga County Farmworker Health Program
*Youth in Agriculture: Nathan Bolick
*Urban Gardening Award: Megan Ward; Joanne Puliatti
*Cattlemen's Award: BW Miller
*Alimanestiano Agritourism Award: Dutch Creek Trails
*LE Tuckwiller Award: Operation Medicine Cabinet
*Community Volunteer Award: Dianne Brown
*Women in Agriculture: Jane Campbell and Nancy Moretz
*Farm and Food Steward Award: High Country CSA
*Beekeeper of the Year: Steve and Barbara Butler
*Youth Volunteerism Award: Matthew Michel
* Growing Healthy Communities Award: Recovery Education Center

Many thanks to Bandana's for catering the event and all of our sponsors: Triple T Pumping (for donating port-o-johns), Wachovia and BB&T Banks, Carolina Farm Credit, the Watauga County Farm Bureau, Bare Essentials, Southern Ag, the Boone-Blowing Rock Lodging Association, and Watauga County 4-H.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Organic 101 Workshop Series

Each year the Watauga Cooperative Extension service offers Organic 101 a workshop series designed to help gardeners grow sustainably without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Workshops are held at the Appalachian State University Teaching and Research Farm and Agroecology Laboratory located in Valle Crucis. Participants learn how to build and improve soils, design appropriate gardens for mountain landscapes and terrain, identify beneficial insects and pests and understand their dynamic interactions.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

4-H Super Summer

4-H Super Summer kept us busy exploring the community as we dug into gardening, hunted for insects, explored science in the kitchen and more. We searched local farms for ingredients for pizza and made our own pizza from scratch (we did Not eat Alpaca pizza!). Playing in the river was one of our favorite things to keep us cool in the hot weather. We made our own lotion, experimented with homemade rootbeer, made seed balls, planted Tickle Me plants and many other fun things to keep us active and involved.

4-H Summer Camp

Watauga County youth attended 4-H camp at Betsy-Jeff Penn 4-H Center, near Reidsville, NC. They kept busy the entire week, canoeing in the lake, rock climbing, swimming in the new olympic sized pool, horseback riding and more!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Wetland Plant Walk

After a year of growing and the recent summer rains, the constructed stormwater wetland in Boone is starting to mature. Join us for a plant identification walk on Wednesday, August 25, at 6pm. We will meet under the pavilion and walk around the wetland discussing the benefits of wetlands and viewing the lovely blooming vegetation. Please email Wendy_Patoprsty@ncsu.edu to RSVP.

BigSweep River Clean Up 2010

Thank-you to all the volunteers who got stinky, dirty, and wet, picking up trash in the high country’s waterways in 2009. It is amazing what a group of people can accomplish in a few hours working together!

Volunteers set an all time record in 2009 with pounds of trash collected. 172 volunteers covered the river from Foscoe down to Guy Ford Rd in Bethel. Over 6,000 pounds of trash was extracted from the Watauga river and its banks. Everything from lawn mowers, car parts, bed springs, kids toys, construction materials, and of course a large volume of beer bottles and cans. Volunteers harvested 15 tires, some with the rims and hubcaps still in tact. The Riverkeeper and ASU Geography Club set up a Z-line to pull one of the tires out!

Watauga River Clean Up 2010 - September 25th
Contact Wendy Patoprsty at 264-3061 or Wendy_Patoprsty@ncsu.edu to volunteer!

The Watauga River is our playground all year long, from swimming and tubing to fishing, lounging, birding, wading, photography, boating, and much more. It’s disappointing to see so much trash every year, but it is awesome to see the volunteers getting out there and cleaning up.

The Watauga County Cooperative Extension would like to thank all of 2009 Watauga River Clean Up Sponsors, Partners, and Volunteers; River and Earth Adventures, Appalachian Angler, Watauga River Anglers, Foscoe Fishing Company, Upper Watauga Riverkeeper, Watauga River Conservation Partners, High Country Waste Solutions, GDS, PACT, Footsloggers, EarthFare, Mast General Store, Watauga County Sanitation, MountainKeepers, Watauga County DOT, Valle Crucis Community Park, ASU Outdoor Programs, ASU Geography Club, ASU First Year Seminar Students, Teaching Fellows, The Outdoor Residential Learning Community, The ASU ACT program, and many many more community volunteers.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Town of Boone Cistern

The Town of Boone Public Works Department (PWD) provides many services to town residents, including solid waste management, recycling programs, and street and facilities maintenance. Due to its high elevation, Boone is known for relatively harsh, cold winters and, on average, receives 102 centimeters of snowfall each year; therefore, snow and ice removal is a large component of the PWD’s responsibilities during the winter months. As part of their snow and ice removal process, the town of Boone applies a salt brine solution to roads before precipitation begins, which prevents ice from forming on the road surface. This brine solution is approximately 23% salt solution, or 6,000 lbs salt for every 2,000 gal of water. The PWD is responsible for approximately 80 mi of streets and 12 mi of sidewalk and uses an average of 50,200-60,760 gal of brine solution annually. In the spring and summer months, the PWD is responsible for maintaining town- owned landscapes, which includes irrigating flower beds and median strips, and periodic washing of vehicles and equipment is necessary for maintenance purposes. Approximately 30,115 gal of water is used for irrigation purposes during the non-winter months, roughly 35,900 gal is used for vehicle and equipment washing and about 59,970 gal is used for street sweeping and sidewalk washing.

The NCSU Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department received funding from a DENR, EPA 319 grant to install Rainwater Harvesting Systems (cisterns) as an innovative stormwater management practice in four cities across North Carolina. Boone was a recipient of one of the cisterns because of the collaborative efforts of Watauga County Extension and the Town of Boone. The cistern in Boone is buried about 5 ft in the ground for regulating temperatures and has a pump station to get the water where it needs to go. NCSU BAE has installed a data logger in the cistern to collect water usage data every 10 minutes.

This system provides water conservation, quantity and quality benefits for the Public Works compound. Over 31,000 gallons of stored rainwater was used in 2009 instead of potable water, saving approximately $242 per year. When this amount of water is captured instead of leaving the site as surface runoff, the amount of stormwater released to the drainage system is substantially reduced having a positive impact on local streams.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Watauga LEAD - Girls In Science Summer Camp

The Watauga County Cooperative Extension held the third year of Watauga LEAD - Leadership, Environment, and Agricultural Discoveries, with great success. The rising 7th-8th female students, nominated by their school science teachers, were highly motivated this summer to explore the High Countries unique natural resources and agricultural heritage through science.

We use the 4-H Youth Development model in designing LEAD to help foster positive youth development and life skills. Through a ropes course session, girls experienced the challenges of problem solving both at the group and individual level. They learned how to work cooperatively with one another to meet a common goal, and mastered the art of communicating and listening during the process. After completing several rigorous ropes challenges, the girls described what they had learned: the importance of trusting one another, the necessity of working together to solve problems, and the value of encouragement to help everyone feel strong and empowered.

The girls were able to associate a career in science by attending a veterinarian clinic. They were able to see a procedure performed on a companion animal. The vet and her staff were remarkable in their discussions with the young ladies. They not only conveyed the day to day happenings at the clinic, but helped them to understand the education involved and the opportunities that are available. I think the girls also received the "I can" understanding from Dr. Roten-Henson, who is a native of Watauga County.

The afternoon horseback ride showed another aspect of animal science. By listening to the "resident cowboy" the girls became excited and yet learned to be calm around the horses. While on the trail ride I heard comments like "I can't believe I am riding a horse all by myself" and "this is so much fun, I didn't think I could do this, because I am afraid of horses". Statements such as these show that the day was fun but still helped build confidence in these young ladies.

Other topics during the week include; Health Science - touring the Health, Leisure, and Exercise Science lab at Appalachian State University. While there they explored different careers associated with health and wellness and the research done on athletes.

During the week the girls also explored the vast connections that are often overlooked in the agricultural setting- insects pollinating crops, the integration of
sustainability to build soils and crops without the use of harsh pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and a hands-on soil experiment designed to show the differences in soil biota from different soil types.

They had hands-on experiences testing stream health; oxygen levels, pH, conductivity, temperature, and studying the biology to determine water quality in an urban area and compare it to a forested area. Up at Grandfather Mtn. the girls helped the rangers with air quality testing on top of the mountain and explored the animal habitats.

The grand finale of the week was a canoeing experience where the girls guided themselves down the New river. They picked up trash along the way and learned that each of us can make a difference in the world when we care. The LEAD girls will continue to meet with scientists for different activities throughout the school year.

The Watauga LEAD camp will be open to new participants next year. For more information about LEAD contact the Watauga County Cooperative Extension at 264-3061.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Farm City Award Nominations!

Please mark your calendars to join us in celebrating our agricultural heritage! The 55th annual Watauga County Farm City Banquet will be held on Sunday, August 15th, at the Historic Blair Farm in Boone from 1:00-6:00 p.m. Free exhibits, music, and family fun & games will be available all afternoon. An awards ceremony will be held at 4:00 pm, followed by a “local foods” dinner at 5:00. The theme for the 2010 Farm City Celebration is “Growing Youth, Growing Agriculture” as we also celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We are currently accepting nominations to honor individuals for their contributions to our community and agriculture—and we need your help! Please nominate outstanding people that YOU know have made a positive impact on youth, agriculture, and our community.

Completed applications can be mailed or dropped of to the Extension Center or e-mailed to Kathy_Lee@ncsu.edu by 5 p.m. on Friday, July 16, 2010. Please pass along this information to others who may be interested.

Click HERE for a nomination form.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Goodness Grows in Boone Wetland

After a harsh winter, the wetland plants have begun to push their way through the water column to reach the atmosphere where the leaves can spread to absorb the warmth of the sunshine. These plants are essential components in the wetland habitat providing shelter, shade, food, soil stability, places to raise young, filter toxins in the water, and restore our native plant populations.

The native vegetation that was planted in the Boone constructed stormwater wetland in spring of 2009 continues to grow healthy in 2010. Many of the plants are spreading through their water level zones to cover broad areas. This is important because we really want the water traveling through the wetland to have as much contact with the plants as possible. This allows the water to slow down, having interaction among microbes, plant roots, and soils to clean the stormwater before it enters the river.

The purple flowering pickerel-weed (Pontederia cordata) was planted as small plugs a year ago, and just last week Extension Agent and volunteers were able to divide and spread the plants out among vacant areas in the wetland. Other plants that are spreading beautifully include the lizards tail (Saururus cernuus), soft stem bulrush (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani), wool grass (Scirpus cyperinus), and cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis). The birds and dragonflies are having a hayday out there with all the plants and habitat now available. In fact, the duck potato (Sagittaria latifolia) that was planted last year has been eaten by all the ducks and deer (I guess its called duck potato for a reason!)

Just 10 years ago, there were houses, roads and driveways in this area where the wetland is now. Establishing a wetland in this floodplain is one of the best uses for this area. When it floods the river water can flow into the wetland and not homes. It can take years for an ecosystem to develop into a mature thriving healthy system. The town of Boone working with NCSU BAE, Clean Water Management Trust Fund, and the Cooperative Extension have given this field a jump start with the excavation and pond areas, now its up to nature to develop a mature wetland. I look forward to seeing this area for years to come.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Historic Hydrangea Gardens at Moses Cone Estate

A unique collaborative project began earlier this spring at the Moses Cone Estate on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Members from the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation contacted Extension agent Meghan Baker to discuss the historic hydrangea garden plantings around Bass Lake on the Moses H. Cone Estate. What evolved was a community service project between the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, the National Park Service, and NC Cooperative Extension and Watauga County Extension Master Gardener volunteers.

Over the course of two days in April, over 350 hydrangea shrubs were pruned and fertilized as an effort to bring them back into proper health. Cooperative Extension utilized this as an opportunity to teach Extension Master Gardener interns the art of pruning Hydrangea paniculata. Volunteers pruned in the sun one day and in rain the next, but their pruning persistence was unwavering. It is hoped that this project will become an annual community service project for Extension Master Gardener volunteers and interns.

It is a rare opportunity to be able to contribute to the renewal and preservation of such historical plantings. The hydrangea gardens are thought to be the work of Moses's wife, Bertha. They were planted soon after the turn of the century but were left unattended after Bertha's death around 1950. Through the funding efforts from the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, the crowding tree canopy was removed to allow these specimens once again to come into grand display. Other Parkway volunteers have contributed to the effort as well in the past.

Look for the Hydrangea paniculatas to bloom in late summer and fall, with their graceful white blooms aging to a rich rose color. They are truly a sight to behold!

There is still time to order your Rain Barrel

People from all over the county picked up the first delivery of rain barrels last week at the Agricultural Conference Center in Boone.

If you haven't ordered yours yet, we will have a second delivery on July 28th. To order your 100% recycled plastic, made in NC rain barrel click to http://www.rainbarrelprogram.org/watauga-county

Top 5 Reasons to Harvest Rainwater!

* Protect our rivers and streams from runoff pollution
* Divert water from the municipal storm drain system
* Conserve this vital natural resource and reduce your water bills
* Use the rain water to grow healthy and lush plants
* Control moisture levels around the foundation of your home

The Rain Barrel Sale is presented to you by: Watauga County Cooperative Extension, Watauga County Soil and Water Conservation District and The Town of Boone.

Watauga High School Creek Studies

Around two hundred 9th grade earth science and biology students enjoyed a day at the creek this spring learning about water quality and stream ecology. Courtney Wait of the National Committee for the New River and Wendy Patoprsty of the Watauga County Cooperative Extension teamed up with the science teachers to provide a hands-on learning experience at Winkler’s Creek behind the high school. This is a great location because the students can walk from the school down to the creek for outdoor studies, and there is an impaired tributary (Rusty Creek) that flows into Winkler’s Creek where the students can compare samples. Through Courtney’s guidance, the students test these two creeks for dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, and conductivity. The students found that the impaired tributary will not sustain life, while Winkler’s Creek is abundant with aquatic organisms.

Each student also has the opportunity to get in the creek and sample areas for benthic macro invertebrates (stoneflies, mayflies, caddisflies, etc.) With the use of some nets, containers, and magnifying lenses, the students were able to rate the streams ecological integrity. Fortunately, they found many crayfish, mayflies, stoneflies, caddisflies, hellgrammites, craneflies, dragonfly larvae, water pennies, and damselflies. All of these nymphs and larvae need cool, clean, oxygenated water to survive. We are fortunate in the high country to have such outstanding water resources and we all need to continue our vigilance in protecting and conserving what we’ve got.
With the comparison of the two creeks (Rusty creek and Winkler’s creek) the students saw first-hand how life depends on clean water both aquatic and terrestrial including humans.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Eastern Apiculture Society of North America coming to Boone!

Have you heard the buzz?

Beekeepers and bee enthusiasts across the region are gearing up for a world-class event to be held in August right here in Boone, the Eastern Apiculture Society’s (EAS) annual conference. The EAS of North America “is an international non-profit educational organization founded in 1955 for the promotion of bee culture, beekeeper education, and excellence in bee research.” The 2010 will be held on the campus of Appalachian State University from August 2 -6. The conference includes a two-day beekeeper shortcourse with both beginner and advanced tracks and specialized microscopy demonstrations to aid beekeepers in identifying bee diseases. The main conference begins on Wednesday, August 4th and includes a variety of workshops and field exercises. Of particular importance are research updates and new developments with bee colony decline across the nation and abroad. Speakers include nationally and internationally renowned leaders in apiculture presenting attendees with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for learning from some of the world’s most experienced beekeepers. More information on the workshop schedule, registration, and the week’s events can be found at the Eastern Apiculture Society’s website:  


See you there!

Above Photograph: www.flickr.com/photos/kevinl8888/483203797/

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

4-H Horse Competitors

Watauga 4-H participants Jazmyne Maxwell and Jacqueline Walczak qualified for the State 4-H Horse Show at district competition. District competitors had over 70 classes to choose from. They practiced horsemanship skills and gained many lifeskills preparing for the competition. Way to go Jazmyne and Jacqueline!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Pesticide Recertification

Ag Agents Meghan Baker and Eddy Labus recently presented a 2-hour pesticide license recertification course to 59 private and commercial pesticide applicators. Participants included folks from 7 counties and two states. Topics included "Pests in the Landscape" and "Reducing Pesticide Drift." Keep an eye on our calendar events (at the bottom of the website) for other upcoming workshops and programs.

Operation Medicine Cabinet a HUGE Success!

The drug takeback program that keeps unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medications out of landfills and streams more than quadrupled in medications collected. Watauga Cooperative Extension & its volunteers played a major role in the organization and promotion of this event.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mosquito Activity on the Rise

...by Charles Apperson and Mike Waldvogel, Extension Entomology

The recent bout of heavy but very needed rain will likely trigger a significant increase in mosquito activity in about 10-14 days. In residential areas in particular, now is the time for homeowners to take the initiative to reduce the likelihood of serious mosquito problems around your property before they become reality. Before resorting to insecticide applications, consider a few other critical tasks:

Standing water is the critical item because mosquitoes will not be able breed without it. Permanent bodies of water can pose a more formidable impediment but most of our problems in residential areas are the result of MMOs or "Man-Made Objects" (yes... we guys will take the blame).

Natural low-lying areas will begin to dry slowly but make sure you're not contributing to the problem with clogged drainage ditches, tire ruts, etc.

Other water-collecting items such as empty buckets, tires, dishes under outdoor potted plants, the tarps over boats, equipment, etc. need to be emptied, inverted, discarded or whatever is workable to remove the water.

Have birdbaths? They make great observation posts for watching mosquito larvae in the water. There's no need to add chemicals. Do yourself and the birds a favor and flush out the birdbath. Same thing applies to pet water bowls outdoors (livestock water troughs out in pastures are another issue since they're not always as easily flushed out or routinely maintained).

Excuse time is over - get out the ladder and climb up there and unclog those rain gutters. The decaying leaf material and other debris actually attract mosquitoes. If you're planning home improvements, consider gutter guards to divert the debris. Also, make sure that your downspouts direct the water away from the house and not simply create a big puddle along the side of the house. If you have those concrete or plastic splash blocks, make sure they're directing water *away* from the foundation.

Finally, if you're using rain barrels to collect that precious rain runoff, make sure you have them screened, which helps keep out the junk and the mosquitoes as well. And while you're at it, get your neighbors to do the same. Mosquito control "takes a village" but it only takes one village idiot to make life miserable for the rest of the neighborhood.

Check out our mosquito information at: http://insects.ncsu.edu/Urban/mosquito.htm

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

4-H Happenings

In 4-H, you can explore all sorts of things. Here is an edited report from 15 year old club president, Emily Cornett.

Appalachian Pioneer Meeting Report
By - Emily Cornett

Our Appalachian Pioneers Group met for it's first meeting on April 9, 2010. We had a wonderful attendance turnout with a total of about 12 families (equaling about 35 4-H age kids) come out to the meeting. For the core of our meeting we learned about the many uses of farm animals both in the past and present. We had some group discussion on the various farm animals and everyone added input as to the different ways they were and are used. Our hands on project this meeting was learning to make homemade butter. This was a wonderfully fun experience. After much shaking, each family's butter turned out yellow, and firm. After everyone strained their butter and completed the project, we all ate snack. Eventually everybody toured our farm to see some of our farm animals.

Where Does Your Food Come From?

Margie Mansure, Watauga's Family and Consumer Science Agent, has been presenting on this topic to third graders at the Two Rivers Community School. Following up with a school garden program at the school last year, Margie has been tying in gardens, vegetables, and nutrition with children at the charter school. "Dirt Made My Lunch" was the theme of yesterday's lesson as she got students thinking and talking (and singing) about the starting point for all of the ingredients in yummy pizza--the soil, of course! Margie also talked about different vegetables and the different vitamins that each vegetable provides.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Watauga Cattleman's Field Day

The Watauga Cattleman’s Association and the Watauga Cooperative Extension Service held their annual field day on May 11, at Claude Austin’s farm in Boone.
Dr. Jim Turner addressed transportation of cattle using best management practices that were developed through the Beef Quality Assurance Program. This is a national program developed to improve the management of beef cattle from birth to slaughter and improve the quality of beef to consumers.
Adam Keener Extension Agent in Avery County addressed issues concerning mineral nutrition for beef cattle. Mineral nutrition is extremely important to the health of cattle. Our area is extremely low in Selenium and Copper, and the feeding of a good mineral is essential to beef production.
For more information on the Watauga Cattleman’s Association or Questions about livestock call Eddy at 264-3061.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Happy Arbor Day!

Arbor Day was celebrated in Boone today at the Daniel Boone Gardens. Mayor Loretta Clawson welcomed second graders from several area elementary schools to the gardens that have undergone months of cleanup after the 2009 Christmas day ice storm. Joan Hearn (aka "Mother Nature") and other speakers answered questions about trees and Mason's Tree Care gave a pruning demonstration. Watauga County Extension Director, Jim Hamilton, is a new member of Boone's Tree Board that reviews planning proposals related to tree species selection and planting for the town.

Scouting Field Day, May 25th

The NC Cooperative Extension- Watauga and Ashe Centers will be hosting a insect and weed scouting field day on Tuesday, May 25th from 2-4PM. We will discuss various pest and beneficial insects commonly found in Christmas Tree farms and control options.  Demonstrating scouting techniques followed by actual field scouting will help growers learn how to scout on their own farms.   2  hours of pesticide credit in categories G, L, N, O, D, and X will be available to participants.
Directions: From Boone continue on Hwy. 421 South past the intersection of old 421 and new 421 (Food Lion intersection) and travel approx. 1-1.5 miles turning left onto Laurel Gap Ridge Rd. (the second left after the intersection).  Follow Laurel Gap Ridge Road for approx. 1/ 2 mile.  After coming down the hill and curving left, look for a metal farm gate on the right, just past a house trailer.  Go through the farm gate and travel down gravel road.  Veer left continuing on the gravel road and then continue until you reach a grass parking area at the end of the farm road.  Signs will be posted.
For more information:  Meghan Baker Extension Agent, Agriculture Christmas Trees and Commercial Horticulture NC Cooperative Extension Watauga County Center 971 West King Street Boone, NC 28607 Meghan_Baker@ncsu.edu Phone:828-264-3061 Fax:828-264-3067

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Be sure to ventilate your greenhouses

Greenhouses, Cold Frames, Hoop Houses, and other season-extension technologies do a great job of allowing us to continue growing tasty local vegetables during the "off-months" of winter. However, with the arrival of warmer weather, and the Springtime sun is traveling ever higher through the sky, one must be careful to avoid too much heat. These spinach leaves scorched due to a combination of too much heat and strong sunlight hitting the leaves while there was still water from morning's irrigation beaded-up on the leaves. Spinach is a cool-season crop, so it loved the greenhouse during January and February, but even by April greenhouses get too hot for Spinach to thrive.

To avoid similar problems in your own cold frames and greenhouses, be sure to water as early in the morning as possible so that water can evaporate off the leaves gradually before the sun gets too strong. Also, be sure to keep air moving as much as possible in any cold frame or greenhouse. Sides that roll-up or down are great features if you are putting up a new hoop structure. Removable end-walls will allow the hoop house to continue to be useful well into the summer: eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes all do better with some shelter from the rain and the extra heat early-on, but you need to keep maximum indoor temperatures below 90* F. or so for the plants to continue to thrive into the summer.

If your greenhouse lacks enough vents to move air passively, you may need to employ extra fans to cool things off. Keeping air moving will also help reduce disease problems such as damping-off problems in seedlings (i.e.- Pythium, Rhizoctonia).